- How to combat child obesity? Measures need to start at home
News reports have shown that childhood obesity in the UAE is higher than the international level in developed countries, including the US and the UK. Obesity levels in the UAE are as high as 37 per cent of the population which is double the world average.
Obesity among young children is a problem often ignored. Research has shown that obese children are most likely to become obese adults and are affected by all the associated ailments like diabetes and heart disease. Not only is obese children’s physical heath at stake, they could be teased and bullied at school. They can spend their years with low self-esteem that can have an impact on their academic performance.
Even if it ultimately comes down to diet and exercise, what we eat and how active we are also depends on where we live. With homes and families becoming more nuclear, the impact of video games and other forms of indoor entertainment replacing the good old run in the park, it is not surprising why childhood obesity has reached such epidemic levels in our community.
The good news is that we can all make a difference to combat this phenomenon with small steps that require involvement from our families, schools and community. A good way to ensure we encourage staying healthy, is to keep healthy snacks, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, within easy reach.
Parents must offer their children fruits and vegetables with every meal or as a snack in the day. Parents should take the time to cook healthy meals at home. It is important to cut down on high calorie foods. We also must create awareness of the ill effects fast food can have on the body.
Children should be allowed a “cheat day”, or two, in the week. They should be given rewards in moderation. Children are more likely to make healthy food choices if they see their parents doing the same. So everything starts at home. Eating healthy is one thing, but they should be encouraged to lessen their time spent on their laptops, mobile phones and other devices. Family activities should be planned that are interactive and involve going outdoors. Ensuring children get adequate sleep at night is also a must.
The reader is a pupil of a Sharjah school.