Is­sue of child­hood obe­sity must be ad­dressed now

If noth­ing is done, by 2022, the world will have 192 mil­lion over-weight chil­dren and teenagers

Gulf News - - OPINON -

Six mil­lion obese boys aged be­tween five and 19 four decades ago to 74 mil­lion in 2016. Five mil­lion obese young girls 40 years ago to 50 mil­lion of them to­day. Has the world tipped into an obe­sity epi­demic? These num­bers, born of a study by the Im­pe­rial Col­lege of Lon­don and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, cer­tainly sug­gest so. The num­bers pos­sess a seis­mic shock value that must now get gov­ern­ments, so­ci­eties and com­mu­ni­ties to do some­thing about it, es­pe­cially in the low and mid­dle-in­come coun­tries that the re­port says are se­verely im­pacted by the prob­lem. The most im­por­tant truth about child­hood obe­sity is that be­yond its ge­netic ori­gins, every­thing else about it is due to the cul­pa­bil­ity of gov­ern­ments and the junk food industry, with the lat­ter par­tic­u­larly play­ing an in­flu­en­tial role in child­hood di­etary pur­suits.

This health cri­sis, of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional pro­por­tions, un­for­tu­nately, is not ex­actly a rev­e­la­tion. In fact, it has been in the mak­ing for some years now with no counter-force to halt it in its tracks. But it is pos­si­ble to stop it. The counter-force can be gen­er­ated by gov­ern­ments and so­ci­eties with el­e­men­tal build­ing blocks of pol­icy such as junk food industry reg­u­la­tions, ed­u­ca­tion, pre­ven­tion and so­lu­tion-driven pro­grammes at the grass-roots level to achieve a turn­around. At the mi­cro level, aware­ness cre­ated in fam­ily units on the right nu­tri­tion and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise re­quired to keep chil­dren healthy will pro­duce a dis­cernible macro-level dif­fer­ence. All this calls for a col­lab­o­ra­tive en­deav­our at the na­tional, state and civic lev­els by coun­tries. The re­duc­tion­ist aim is sim­ple: Make par­ents the en­ablers of their chil­dren’s health. Oth­er­wise, by 2022, the world will have 192 mil­lion obese chil­dren and teenagers.

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