Childhood Overweight - A Global Mess
In 2012, the World Health Assembly had set six targets on a Comprehensive implementation plan for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition to be implemented by the year 2025. The fourth target in this resolution was No increase in childhood overweight. The World Health Organization released a publication in 2014 with the purpose of increasing focus on better investments, policy frameworks, and actions that can ensure the target is met by 2025.
The Underlying Problem
There has been a steep rise in the number of children under 5 years of age who are overweight. The data from UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank shows this number jumped from 32 million in 2000 to 42 million in 2013. The major contributing regions were Africa and Asia. Southern Africa showed a dramatic increase in the number of children under 5 years of age from 1% in 2000 to 19% in 2013. These numbers changed from 3% to 7% for Southeast Asia in the same period. The Latin American countries are doing fairly better but the situation is far from normal. If the same trend continues then the total percentage of overweight children around the world under 5 years of age will jump from 7% in 2012 to 11% by 2025.
The modernization of economies and improvement in the standards of living globally has made lives more comfortable. However, this way of living has put tremendous pressure on natural resources. WHO has set a target to stop the percentage figure of overweight children from reaching an 11% mark by 2025. Also, the number of overweight children should not reach 70 million by the end of 2025.
What can be Done?
The experts around the world agree that there are multiple factors responsible for this grave situation. The malnutrition in children, the absence of breastfeeding, and excessive processed food intake are some of the reasons to blame. The policymakers should, therefore, prioritize the following to fight this pandemic.
Development of strict policies that promise healthy nutrition flows from production to consumption. They will also need to form intergovernmental task forces to ensure compliance. Of course, the policies should be framed considering the complete life span of an individual.
The release of nationwide dietary guidelines will help a lot in controlling malnutrition at a young age and obesity later. When the mandate is out there in the public then people are forced to switch to healthier eating habits.
● Social Norms
It is interesting to understand the importance of nutrition in the early years of a child. The social norms and community view plays a crucial role in shaping the overall health of the nation. Processed food marketing has certainly disturbed the good eating practices. The government must curb the use of harmful foods and drinks. Early exposure to alcohol should also be discouraged.
● Research and Development
The R&D activities in the field of healthcare must be encouraged. If the root causes of obesity are analyzed thoroughly then it can reveal many secrets. Science can definitely help in fighting obesity and eliminate the risks of diseases to a great extent.
The study on nutrition linked obesity shows that there are a few other factors that should be properly dealt with. The lack of breastfeeding, stunting in infants, anemia in women of reproductive age, and low birth weight are major hindrances in delivering good health amongst children. A combined effort by society and all the governments of the world is the need of the hour. WHO has also developed a web-based tracking tool that simulates different scenarios that may help achieve this target by 2025.