The World Obesity Federation has set October 11 as World Obesity Day to call attention to the global problem. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges in the 21st century.
On the World Obesity Day last year, Imperial College London and the WHO published a study which estimated that the number of obese children and adolescents aged between five and 19 across the world has increased tenfold in the past 40 years.
According to Hong Kong’s Department of Health, overweight and obesity detection rate of primary and secondary school students in the city is around 20 percent.
Parents, especially grandparents, often ignore the occurrence of obesity in kids and may even be proud of it as they may feel a sense of accomplishment that they are raising chubby and healthy children.
However, the truth is that obese children who continue to be overweight into adulthood will have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, etc.
They will also have an increased risk of getting cancer in colon, breast or endometrial cancers. They may develop psychological and social problems, such as low self-esteem and depression, and are more likely to be bullied.
The root cause of obesity and overweightness is imbalance in ingesting and burning of calories. With excessive intake of food, if there is lack of sufficient exercise to burn the calories, obesity is inevitable.
Nowadays, children are often busy with loads of homework, tutorials, and extra-curricular activities. When they are finally free, they are probably sitting watching TV, using smartphones and tablets. They spend a considerable amount of time on static activities, which ultimately lead to obesity.
On top of changing the lifestyle, it is essential for the government and schools to have suitable policies in order to solve the problem of childhood obesity.
Children spend most of their time in school and the interaction between teachers and students is vital.
According to a study conducted by the University of Hong Kong, the more a school encourages physical activities, the less is the risk that its pupils will have an obesity problem.
Factors that determine the ranking of a school in terms of being physical activity-friendly include the number of physical activities that the institution offers and the related facilities, as well as the teachers’ attitudes toward such activities.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 9
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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