Tackling Childhood Obesity

Dec 21 2017

Childhood obesity has emerged as a major health challenge around the globe affecting more than 41 million children worldwide, and forecasted to reach 70 million by 2025, if current trends continue. According to the World Health Organisation, over 17% of children in the UAE are classed as obese. The effects of obesity extend to the community and finances of the country, and it currently costs the UAE $6 billion per year.

The psychological effects of obesity are overwhelmingly evident according to Bahee Van de Bor, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH) in London. “Overweight and obese children are likely to remain obese into adulthood and face problems such as depression and bullying, which can further decrease the self-esteem and mental well-being,” says Ms. Van de Bor. She added that to avoid the psychological problems continuing into adulthood, it is important to tackle childhood obesity early.

Dr. Lee Hudson, Consultant General Paediatrician at GOSH, emphasises the severity of the problem stating that it is an emerging epidemic in the region and says that “issues with weight tend to build over time and they can go unnoticed by the family until the problems are established.”

Obesity has several effects on a child’s health, now and in the future, and is a leading cause of death around the world. Obese children have an increased risk as adults for strokes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, and diabetes, which will lead to a decreased quality of life and a shortened lifespan.

Tips for parents

Lee Hudson, Consultant General Paediatrician, and Bahee Van de Bor, Specialist Paediatric Dietitian, at GOSH has shared tips for parents to help get kids and families become healthy and active.

Get active! Exercising is important for preventing weight problems.

Kids need about 60 minutes a day, and they need help achieving this both in school and at home. Encourage them to join a school sports team or take part in school activities. After school, look into local after-school clubs or sports teams; there are lots of fun ways for kids to do 60 minutes without making it a chore. Activities such as cycling, walking, playing tag, jumping rope or swimming and dancing are great activities to encourage your child to do exercise.

Join in as a family

Exercise is more fun as a family! It should be encouraged and integrated into everyday family life. This can be small, incremental changes (e.g., deciding to walk to school rather than taking the car), to bigger changes (e.g., family trips to the swimming pool or going on a family bike ride).

Reducing screen time

Reducing the amount of time kids spend in front of a screen, such as a computer, television or video game consoles is also beneficial.

Be a good role model

All the family needs to be on board with a healthy ‘get fit, get active’ attitude, so the child doesn’t feel odd or singled out. This will soon make this healthy attitude a normal, everyday part of family life.

Eat well

It’s important that the body is fuelled correctly to feel the benefits of doing exercise. Make sure the family is eating regular, healthy and properly portioned meals every day. Watch out for sugary snacks and drinks in between meals and instead snack on fruit or nuts and drink water where necessary.


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