Obesity in kids: How to tackle the problem?

Obesity in kids: How to tackle the problem?Obesity in kids: How to tackle the problem?
Highlights

A healthy lifestyle begins at home. Parents should keep an eye on children from snacking on unhealthy foods...

A healthy lifestyle begins at home. Parents should keep an eye on children from snacking on unhealthy foods between meals or while watching TV, for instance. This kind of mindless eating is a major cause of childhood obesity. Encourage physical activity; ensure they spend one to two hours in some form of sport or outdoor activity daily.

Overall, the most important strategies for preventing childhood obesity are healthy eating behaviours, regular physical activity, and reduced sedentary activity (such as watching television, surfing the net, videogames etc). These preventative strategies are part of a healthy lifestyle that should be developed during early childhood.

Schools preventing obesity:

Schools have an opportunity to improve the health and tackle obesity in children at an ideal time, before problems set in. Nutrition and physical education can be woven into the curriculum to teach skills that help students choose and maintain healthy lifestyles.

Physical education should focus on getting students engaged in high-quality and regular activity. Schools that have a cafeteria, should include healthier food options and eliminate marketing of unhealthy food.

Effecting child mentally:

Childhood obesity can lead to sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Obesity can make it harder for kids to participate in activities and socialise. Kids also become a target for bullying. Many children will experience being teased or bullied, because of their excessive weight.

Trying to reach that ideal body weight takes a toll on their self-esteem and this in turn could lead to depression. The constant exposure to 'ideal body types' on the internet, TV and in cinema could further dampen their self-esteem.

Bullying in school for obesity:

The schools are in a position to provide more protection and support to children and their parents. Bullying occurs for a large part within the school's premises. As part of the curriculum, students should be taught to identify bullying language and actions. They should also be taught positive communication skills.

Encourage children to have classroom discussions on the motivation and effects of bullying. An open discussion creates a more positive environment where bullying is less likely to occur. There should be an established system for a child to report being bullied, (anonymously, if needed) and get immediate help.

Counselling should be provided to the children involved and their families to determine a solution and to avoid future occurrences. Schools should have a zero tolerance policy on bullying. Installation of CCTV cameras can potentially deter incidences of ragging and bullying. With the joint efforts of the school, children and parents, schools can be a safe and healthy experience.

Role of parents in child obesity:

Attention to this should start in pregnancy. In our culture, pregnant women tend to be overfed. Overeating and excess weight gain in pregnant women can increase their risk of developing gestational diabetes leading to elevated blood sugars.

If left uncontrolled, it can affect the health of the baby. Elevated blood sugar levels increases the baby's insulin and blood sugar levels, and acts as a source of excess energy, which is then stored as fat. This increases the risk of obesity and development of Type 2 diabetes in the child later in life. Instead, pregnant women should have nutritious food and ditch high calorie food.

-Dr Kona Lakshmi Kumari

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