A report by the World Health Organisation has revealed that at least 41 million children under the age of five are obese or overweight. While the number rose significantly by 10 million over the past 25 years, ironically, it was found that there were now more overweight and obese children in the developing world than in the high-income countries.
Significantly, the report by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity found that almost half of the overweight children under the age of five lived in Asia, whereas some 25 per cent were in Africa.
Experts blamed marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages as a major contributor of obesity among children, particularly in the developing world. As per the report in poorer countries children of wealthier families are more likely to be obese, especially in cultures where “an overweight child is often considered to be healthy.”
On the other hand, in wealthier countries, the report noted that poorer children are more likely to be obese partly because of the affordability of fatty fast food and high sugar snacks.
According to the report, overweight prevalence among children aged under five years has risen between 1990 and 2014, from 4.8 per cent to 6.1 per cent, with numbers of affected children rising from 31 million to 41 million during that time. The number of overweight children in lower middle-income countries has more than doubled over that period, from 7.5 million to 15.5 million.
Due to obesity, the report said that many children faced obstacles in their life that would continue into adulthood. “Overweight and obesity impact a child’s quality of life, as they face a wide range of barriers, including physical, psychological and health consequences.
We know that obesity can impact on educational attainment too and this, combined with the likelihood that they will remain obese into adulthood, poses major health and economic consequences for them, their families and society as a whole,” Ms Sania Nishtar, ECHO, co-chair said.
To reverse the trend, the ECHO report has proposed a host of recommendations for governments like, promoting intake of healthy foods, promoting physical activity, preconception and pregnancy care among others. The WHO director-general Margaret Chan however, said, “implementing the report’s recommendations will take political will and courage, as some go against the interests of powerful economic operators.”...