There is no doubt that childhood obesity is at its peak and reaching alarming proportions alone in India. A recent study conducted by The World Health Organization shows that in the last 5 years there has been a 22% prevalence rate of childhood obesity in India, especially among the age group of 5-19 years.
WHO reports that marketing of unhealthy food and non-alcoholic beverages is the real reason that contributes towards the increase in number of children getting overweight or obese, particularly in developing countries like India.
A raising concern about the rise of adult diseases such has high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes; osteoporosis among the youth is raising brows and highlights the effect of obesity on a child’s immediate health, educational attainment and also the quality of life.
“”It is important to address the problem of obesity and overweight at school level itself or else it can lead to disease burden which will continue into adulthood”
Globally, the trend is high specifically among children under the age of five years with atleast 41 million found to be obese or overweight in 2014. While the prevalence rate of obesity in this age group is still low in India at less than 5%, the WHO report suggests it is rising at the fastest pace among all developing countries. Between 1990 and 2014, the number of overweight children in low and middle-income countries has more than doubled from 7.5 million to 15.5 million. In 2014, almost half (48%) of all overweight and obese children under 5 years age lived in Asia and one-quarter (25%) in Africa.
According to 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.” However, in wealthier countries, poorer children are more likely to be obese partly because of the affordability of fatty fast food and high sugary snacks.
In India there is also a wide divide between children in urban and rural areas. While food habits are poor in urban areas leading to high prevalence rate, in rural India there is a lack of reporting mechanism to gauge the real situation.
The report has made a host of recommendations to reverse the trend. This includes promoting intake of healthy foods, promoting physical activity, preconception and pregnancy care among others.
The WHO director-general Margaret Chan said, “Implementing the report’s recommendations will take political will and courage, as some go against the interests of powerful economic operators.”