Jul 12, 2017

Being overweight or obese, at a relatively young age, is a worrying prospect that brings with itself a future full of health problems. Additionally, it can also affect the mental well-being of the affected child who can potentially develop self-esteem issues.

It’s a serious issue that’s becoming more serious with each passing day.

The recent statistics by the World Health Organization paint an alarming picture. Since 1990, according to a recent WHO report, the number of obese or overweight children has increased by a shocking 10 million.

Debunking popular myths

It’s commonly understood that obesity is exclusively a first-world problem. Conventional wisdom suggests that there are more obese people in the West than there are in the third world countries.

This is not entirely true.

The report by the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) is shattering the popular myths about childhood obesity. It shows that there are now more obese and overweight children in the developing and the underdeveloped countries.

The developing world

The reports from the developing world are much grimmer compared to the western states. In 2014, the number of obese children in the developing world has more than doubled from 7.5 million in 1990 to 15.5 million.

Asia has the largest population of overweight and obese children in the world. Around half of the world’s overweight and obese children live in Asia while a quarter of the population lives in Africa. The cause of the increase is generally attributed to the processes of globalization and urbanization.

The effects on children

The impact of early childhood obesity can be devastating on the child’s health and quality of life. Overweight children face a wide range of health barriers in their early development. The effects are not just physical, according to medical experts. They may and do suffer psychologically as well.

But that’s not it.

Being obese or overweight can also hamper the child’s educational attainment. And there’s a strong likelihood that the child may remain obese well into adulthood as well. This can cause major economic and health consequences for them, individually, as well as their families.

Cultural causes

Another huge cause of the rise in obesity rates in developing countries is the changing cultural landscape due to urbanization and globalization. For instance, children who don’t have proper access to nutritious food in their early years are on higher risk of obesity when the living standards and food availability improves.

Another cultural change comes with migration. The indigenous people who migrate to other areas experience rapid cultural changes. Their living standards and the availability of food improve but the access to healthcare is limited. This is a leading cause of obesity.

Many developing countries are also being exposed to unhealthy food products and soft drinks through excessive marketing. With the absence or lack of enforcement of health standards, the risk of weight gain and obesity increases significantly.

The statistics in the report are eye-opening. It’s up to the authorities to find a way forward. 

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