World Obesity Day 2024: Safeguard your child s health help prevent childhood obesity


World Obesity Day is an annual global event that aims to raise awareness about the rising outbreak of obesity and its impact on health worldwide. Observed on March 4, the day emphasises the need for collective efforts to address and prevent obesity, promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle. Obesity is the root cause of a plethora of issues, most of which can be attributed to increasingly sedentary lifestyle patterns, unhealthy dietary habits, and lack of physical activity. While obesity is often considered a health issue among adults, childhood obesity remains a pressing concern.

According to Dr. Amrita Kaul, HOD and Senior Consultant Pediatrics from Surya Mother and Child Speciality Hospital, Pune, around one in three children is overweight or obese in the WHO countries, while about 60% of overweight children (pre-puberty) become overweight during early adulthood. Often regarded as a modern epidemic, childhood obesity is linked to various cardiovascular risks, including high blood pressure, stroke, and insulin resistance. Children who are obese are more likely to carry this weight into adulthood, increasing their risk of serious health problems and even early death. 

For children with obesity or overweight, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Pediatrics suggest early treatment using the highest level of intensity that is appropriate for and available for a child, rather than watchful waiting. To prevent obesity in children, it becomes imperative for parents and guardians to adopt a multi-pronged approach, focusing on both healthy habits and creating a supportive environment. Here are a few of them: 

  1. Model healthy eating: Children learn by observing, so parents and caregivers should prioritize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Control the grocery list it is easier to make choices if all the food in the house is healthy.  Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Fruit juices are also considered sweetened beverages and should be avoided and eating whole fruit should be encouraged. Skipping breakfast is associated with obesity in children and also has adverse effects on school performance. 
  2. Encourage physical activity: Make physical activity a fun and regular part of your child's life. This can include playing outside, joining sports teams, or engaging in active family outings. Aim for at least 60 minutes of daily activity. For school-aged children, it is advisable to have a structured physical activity (participation in individual /team sports) rather than self-guided activities (unscheduled running /walking)
  3. Promote mindful eating: Teach children to listen to their bodies and eat only until they feel satisfied, not stuffed. Avoid using food as a reward or punishment.
  4. Prioritise sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for overall health and weight regulation. Establish consistent sleep routines and ensure your child gets sufficient sleep for their age.
  5. Limit recreational screen time /internet use: Screen time is a big deterrent for physical activity and causes a child to just sit around. Families should monitor their present amount of media use and set goals to decrease it. Traditional recommendations are to limit screen time to < 1 hour. day with more stringent limits for children < 2 yrs. 

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