A newly released WHO report shows childhood obesity spiking around the world, with higher rates in African and Asian states.
Deprived of healthy diet alternatives and exposed to burgeoning availability of sugary beverages and fatty foods, 41 million children up to 5 years age are obese or overweight. The findings of the report suggest that childhood obesity is becoming a public health problem worldwide. According to the WHO report, the already high figure is expected to increase to 70 million children over the following decade.
Childhood obesity or overweight children typically come from low or middle income countries. The report indicates that 48 percent of the young children prone to childhood obesity are in Asian states. Another 25 percent live in African states. The WHO report has been conducted by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity over a period of two years.
The percentage of young children who are either overweight or obese has increased from 4.8 percent to 6.1 percent from 1990 to 2014. The low and middle income countries mentioned in the report have experienced a more than double fold surge in child obesity and child overweight rates. The number increased from 7.5 million to 15.5 million children.
Globalisation and the rapidly spreading availability of unhealthy dietary choices underpin the alarming rates. Childhood obesity and overweight have a significant impact on quality of life. Young children face physical and physiological challenges all over the world. The health consequences are often dire. Many of these children transit into teenage years and adulthood being obese or overweight. This fact alone should urge a new, more urgent approach to tackle child obesity and overweight globally.
Obese and overweight children may also face poor educational attainment. From this perspective, their economic prospects later into adulthood may be hindered. Taken together, the health and economic risks affect the children, their families as well as society as a whole.
A prevalent global trend is the marketing of sugary drinks and fatty foods. Exposed to advertisements which offer less pricier ‘foods’, children around the world are becoming increasingly prone to being overweight or obese. The WHO report shows childhood obesity spiking around the world.
While 48 percent of overweight or obese children live in Asia, 25 percent live in Africa. Here, the number of young children under the age of five who are either obese or overweight increased from 5.4 million to 10.3 million between 1990 and 2014. The African states with the highest incidence of child obesity are Algeria, Botswana, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.
A number of policy recommendations are made in the conclusion of the report. Fiscal policies and levying taxes on unhealthy foods and drinks rank high. Peter Gluckman, the co-chair of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity stated that governments need to work with the World Health Organization to address the issue in depth.
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