The World Health Organization has declared that childhood obesity is the new major public health threat. Globally, an estimated 10% of school children aged between 5 and 17 years of age are suffering from childhood obesity whereas in India, the prevalence varies between 10% – 30%.
Many parents approach doctors worrying that their children are fat and also on the contrary, we also see many parents complaining that their children are not eating well and are too thin. In our country, there is a misconception that fat children are considered are considered healthy. But now, growing obesity in children affects a child’s health or well being. With obesity on the rise, children and young adults are today being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hyperinsulinemias and polycystic ovarian syndromes. Obese children grow up as obese adults and have more risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and coronary artery diseases.
Obesity in children is a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child’s health or well being. It is measured by calculating the BMI (Body Mass Index). But unlike adults, kids of diverse age groups have different BMI ranges. So that is why, in order to find out if your child is in reality overweight, you need to first arrive at his/her BMI and evaluate it with the BMI of age percentile chart.
How to calculate BMI:
- Record correct height and weight of the child
- Calculate the child’s BMI with the formula
BMI = weight in kg/ (Height in meter)2
- Select the appropriate BMI for age chart based on gender of the child.
It is a serious public health concern as the prevalence of obesity in children all over the world is increasing at an alarming rate. In order to prevent or reverse obesity in children, it is necessary to perform a population wide reassessment of calorie intake as well as activity recommendations due to sedentary lifestyle of children nowadays.
The most important impact of childhood obesity is the continuance into adulthood with all its health risks. The health risks include cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, gall bladder ailment and some sex hormone sensitive cancers. If the underlying causes of obesity epidemic are not addressed, it has the potential to overwhelm health systems throughout the world.
We need to develop healthy eating patterns in children, encourage them to take up sports on a daily basis, more outdoor activities, restrict television and restrict internet activities. As far as the treatment of obesity goes if a child is severely obese, then genetic syndromes and endocrine problems have to be ruled out. There are few children who need bariatric surgery also. These are surgeries done for weight loss when all other measures of weight loss have failed and as a last resort.
Dr. Neha Shah
Apollo hospitals, Chennai