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Fight against child obesity continues in the UAE

Nearly one third of children are obese or overweight, and junk food is to blame

Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News
Dr Liza M Thomasof the CanadianSpecialist Hospital withschoolchildren from acrossDubai, during an antiobesitypresentation.
07 Gulf News

Dubai: Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the UAE with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and a host of obesity-related medical conditions.

With nearly a third of children either obese or overweight, government and local hospitals are shoring up efforts to tackle the obesity rate.

The latest anti-obesity campaign titled ‘Act Now’ was launched Monday by the Canadian Specialist Hospital (CSH).

Aimed at kids, the ongoing campaign discusses prevention, causes, health risks and solutions.

Health authorities, medical professionals, and parents are concerned.

This week, the UAE was listed seventh on the Global Fat Scale among 177 countries, calculated using UN data on population size and estimates of global weight from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Last year’s figures from a nationwide survey of Emirati and expatriate schoolchildren by the Ministry of Health (MoH) stated that 15.5 per cent are obese, 39.2 per cent are overweight and a worrying 21 per cent had fast food three times or more a day.

“The rate hasn’t lowered. There are more than 30 per cent of UAE kids are who obese,” said Dr Liza Thomas, Specialist Internal Medicine, CSH, speaking to Gulf News.

“The statistics are alarming,” said Dr Ali Reza Eghtedari, Consultant Surgeon and Head of Laparoscopic and Obesity Speciality Clinic at CHS.

He told Gulf News that obese children, some as young as eight years old, are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“The harmful effects of obesity among children are evident early on. These can range from diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol.

“I know of young obese patients who have both diabetes and hypertension — fatal for the kidney. If obesity rates aren’t checked, these children will grown up to be unhealthy adults with several medical complications,” he said.

The leading cause of obesity is the availability of junk food and lack of parental involvement in making health a priority, said Dr Thomas.

She explained that parents find it more convenient to visit a fast food outlet then to prepare a healthy meal at home.

She highlighted the role of parents in preventing obesity. She said parents should be role models first. “When children watch their parents eat healthy, they will also emulate them. The learning starts at home and progresses at school and community levels.”

Gulf News also spoke to parents and children to learn of their attitudes towards their health.

Jenny Akiki, mother of Adriana, 10, and two-month-old Eva said being a good role model is the only way to convince your kid to adopt the same lifestyle.

“If my kids see me eating burgers and fries, they will surely not want the broccoli and carrots I give them.”

Akiki prepares Adriana’s meals, including her school lunch box. “I am not convinced of how healthy the school canteen food is so I prefer to cook her meals. Junk food is allowed only on rare occasions.”

Parul Soparkar, grandfather of Aanya, four, said that health is a top priority at the household, and that corrective eating behaviours have to start young. “Aanya is a fussy eater, but has to learn to eat all the food that is good for her.”

Jack Simpson, 12, and Megan Valk, 14, are both students at Dubai English Speaking School (DESS). While they lead active lives, a few of their peers need to change their current lifestyle.

Simpson said, “I have a friend who eats two to three donuts at a time, and enjoys food from fast food outlets. He is trying to lose weight now after realising that he cannot run as fast.”

Valk said, “I have a few friends who do not participate in activities outside of PE [physical education], but they are conscious about their weight. To lose weight, they tend to skip their meals at school knowing that they wouldn’t be allowed to do the same at home.”










Latest Comment

Obesity is a chronic state of being over weight. The obesity Rates are quite Alarming. This has become a leading cause for the increased health threats that persons of the developed world face. What shocks me the most is the fact that when youngsters are getting obese at a very young age. Its never too late and all what we need to focus on is to have a healthy life style so that you can remain fit and smart all the time. You go any where in every nook and corner you would find fast food restaurants. Take a walk in Bur Dubai i am amazed to see the number of fast food restaurants in one line .Many of us are not aware of the consequences and we think that obesity is not a big issue. I hardly see people who walk and run. We all have a lame excuse that we work and we get tired at the end of the day. But it is we who need to decide on how to manage time. Each of us have a duty to protect our health and that is only by eating balanced nourished food, Managing time , exercising on a daily base. Parents Have to take their children out for daily walks, Make them run and make them busy rather then spending time on the internet, sitting in front of the Idiot Box , eating junk foods making children fat and obese. Children these days are more prone to diabetics, strokes , heart problems even due to lack of exercise. All of us Have got beautiful Looking cars that we like to drive, We have the public transport system every where and even the metro so you don't have to worry as every thing is near by unlike other country's. We should ensure that we go out for a walk or at least exercise at home.All it requires is little bit of time and determination. So get going.

Mathew Litty

18 July 2012 10:50jump to comments