Growing concern of Obesity

The I nternational health community marked World Obesity Day on 11th October 2017, under the theme ‘Invest In Obesity’. Governments and health services are being urged to invest in the prevention, management and treatment of obesity because it’s cost-effective. The 2025 targets of halting obesity and achieving 25% reduction in mortality from NCDs (non communicable diseases) set by the World Health Organization can be achieved through this investment. Professionals have previously voiced their concerns about escalating rates of childhood obesity in Kenya. Raphael Owako, who heads the Child Health Rights department at MoH, states that there is a prevalence of 25.6% obesity among school-aged children with boys being 57% of the total, more obese than girls.

Obesity is a precursor to several medical problems that will play havoc with health and adversely affect the quality of life, both in childhood and in adulthood. In developing countries like Kenya emphasis has been geared towards addressing under nutrition and food security.

The country is going through economic and nutrition transition characterised by changes in eating patterns, physical inactivity and increased urbanization. These changes may have a role in the current upward trends in childhood overweight and obesity incidences among children. Further, Kenya may be faced with a double burden of disease resulting from the existence of both underweight and obesity.

In Africa, obesity is reported to be aggravated by nutrition and physical activity transition characterized by shift to high calorie dense foods and reduced physical activity at home and school. The situation is further complicated by sociocultural beliefs in which obesity and being overweight are admired traits.

Professor David Sanders from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa says that there is evidence of under-nutrition in foetal life, related to low birth weight, which can predispose a person to becoming overweight as they grow. Parents should be at the forefront in creating a healthy lifestyle for their children because they are a big influence to them. Easy, convenient and affordable access to processed and fast-food makes the children more predisposed to gaining weight which puts them at risk of developing diseases they should not have to worry about until they become adults. 

Incentives in form of food should be avoided lest they create bad and irregular ways of eating such as excessive food intake or in wrong time to eat. Branding some foods as bad or good will tempt the kids to sneak the bad stuff and you know the saying about forbidden fruits being better. The occasional treats should be less sugary with less calories and less salt. Mixed-fruit salad, banana, custard, yoghurt and puddings are all great for desserts.

A research carried out in the US showed that energy consumed in the form of liquids had a higher impact on child obesity than solid foods. The human body is less capable of compensating excess energy infested in liquid form. Your little kids need to cut down on those cold drinks and juice and instead have low energy alternatives such as flavored water, fat free milk or natural made fresh juices.

Back in the day, we used a lot of energy playing and sporting. This is not the norm for most kids today. Parents should encourage their kids to put down their indoor electronic gadgets, get off the screen and hit the playground. They should engage in outdoor games especially with their friends. It is more fun to include other kids for better participation from your kids.

Be physically active as a parent in order to set a good example. Research shows that children who have not been breastfed and have been introduced to dense cereals and formula are more prone to rapid weight gain. The formula milk has more calories than breast milk. Longer periods of breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the odds of overweight or obesity.

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