Obesity can be defined as a serious medical condition when the body gets accumulated with so much excess fat that it becomes detrimental to his or her health conditions. Childhood obesity is a major concern today when children, babies, toddlers, and teenagers face serious medical conditions due to excessive weight and fat that gets stored in the body. If left unattended it leaves serious consequences like diabetes, sleeplessness, or hypertension and might even turn out to be fatal. A condition in which a child is significantly overweight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There may be no symptoms other than weight that’s above normal.
Global increases in childhood overweight and obesity are attributable to several factors including:
- A global shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients;
- A trend towards decreased physical activity levels due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of recreation time, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Societal reasons for the childhood obesity epidemic
WHO recognizes that the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity results from changes in society. Childhood obesity is mainly associated with unhealthy eating and low levels of physical activity, but the problem is linked not only to children’s behavior but also, increasingly, to social and economic development and policies in the areas of agriculture, transport, urban planning, the environment, food processing, distribution, and marketing, as well as education.
The problem is societal and therefore it demands a population-based multisectoral, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach.
Unlike most adults, children and adolescents cannot choose the environment in which they live or the food they eat. They also have a limited ability to understand the long-term consequences of their behavior. They, therefore, require special attention when fighting the obesity epidemic.
What can be done to fight the childhood obesity epidemic?
Overweight and obesity, as well as related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. It is recognized that prevention is the most feasible option for curbing the childhood obesity epidemic since current treatment practices are largely aimed at bringing the problem under control rather than effecting a cure. The goal of fighting the childhood obesity epidemic is to achieve an energy balance which can be maintained throughout the individual’s life-span
- increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains, and nuts;
- limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats;
- limit the intake of sugars; and
- be physically active – accumulate at least 60 minutes of regular, moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity each developmentally appropriate day.
Curbing the childhood obesity epidemic requires sustained political commitment and the collaboration of many public and private stakeholders.
Governments, International Partners, Civil Society, NGO’s and the Private Sector have vital roles to play in shaping healthy environments and making healthier diet options for children and adolescents affordable, and easily accessible. It is therefore WHO’s objective to mobilize these partners and engage them in implementing the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health.
WHO supports the designation, the implementation, the monitoring, and the leadership of actions. A multisectoral approach is essential for sustained progress: it mobilizes the combined energy, resources, and expertise of all global stakeholders involved.
The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and represent the opinions of the authors. The authors are not medical doctors and do not engage directly or indirectly in diagnosing disease, dispensing medical advice, or prescribing the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional.