Measures To be Taken By Schools and Parents to Combat Obesity
We all have heard about Child Obesity and might be wondering what this is. You all have a general idea that obesity is not healthy, but what are the concerns?
The number of obese children has increased dramatically in recent years. About 10 percent of children aged 4 and 5 are obese. Overweight is more common in girls than boys and preschoolers (4-5 years) than younger children (2-3 years).
Obesity increases even more, when children grow up. In the age group of 6 to 11 years, at least one child in five is overweight. From the past two decades, this number has increased by more than 50 percent. The number of children who are overweight has almost doubled.
For most children, obesity is a result of unhealthy eating habits (too many calories) and low physical activity. This habit should be detected at an early age, and both parents and schools must make efforts to prevent obesity. An affected parent or a child’s school teacher might ask: what steps can we take to prevent our children’s overweight? This blog provided by Dr. Venu Gopal Pareek provides answers to some questions that you may have. It also provides information to help maintain the health of a child.
Why is Obesity in Children a Health Problem?
- Obese children are increasingly reported to suffer from type 2 diabetes. The onset of diabetes in children can cause heart disease and kidney failure.
- Overweight children also have risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their counterparts who enjoy a healthy weight.
- Obese children are at higher risk for chronic health conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.
- Overweight children often suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem as other healthy weight children tease them. This effect can last until adulthood.
- Obese children are likely to develop into an obese adults. This can cause lifelong physical and mental health problems. Obesity in adults is associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer.
Helping Obese Children:
Weight loss is not the right approach for most children because it hinders growth and development. Overweight children must follow a diet only under medical supervision. A strict diet may not provide the energy and nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. For most children, the emphasis must be on maintaining current weight while the child grows normally.
The main strategies for preventing obesity are healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and putting a stop to activities that do not involve movement (e.g., television and videotapes and computer games). This prevention strategy is part of a healthy lifestyle that needs to develop early. Following these guidelines can help improve health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Parents should not forget to consult a doctor before following a weight loss diet for a child.
What Can We Do as a Parent or a School to Prevent Obesity in Childhood?
Measures to be Taken by Parents:
To help a child maintain a healthy weight, Balance the calories a child consumes from food and drinks with the calories a child uses through physical activity. Keep in mind that the goal of overweight children is to reduce the level of weight gain while allowing healthy growth and development.
Calorie Balancing: Help Children to Develop Healthy Eating Habits:
Part of calorie balancing is eating foods that provide adequate nutrition and calories. Accustom children to healthy eating habits by finding ways to make their favourite foods healthier and reducing high-calorie temptations.
Encourage Children For Healthy Eating Habits:
There is no big secret about eating healthy. Here are some tips about how to help your children develop healthy eating habits:
- Serve reasonably-sized portions.
- Provide plenty of fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole-grain products.
- Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
- Encourage a child to drink lots of water.
- Choose poultry, lean meats, lentils, fish, and beans for protein.
- Avoid fat milk or dairy products.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
Find Ways to Make a Child’s Favorite Food Healthier:
Recipes that you can prepare regularly and those that a child enjoys must be made so that they are healthier and equally satisfying.
Remove High-Calorie Temptations:
Everything can be enjoyed in moderation. Reducing high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar foods can help your children develop healthy eating habits. The following are examples of foods that have low fat and low sugar, and contain 100 calories or less:
- Medium-sized apples.
- Medium-sized banana
- 1 cup of blueberries.
- 1 cup of grapes
- 1 cup carrots, broccoli or peppers with 2 tbsp (hummus)
Calorie Balancing: Help Children to Stay Active:
Another way of calorie balancing is exercising with the right physical activity and avoid too much sitting time. Regular physical activity is not only fun for children but also has many health benefits, including:
- Strengthening of bones
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reduction of stress and anxiety
- Increased self-esteem
- Weight management
Help children to stay active:
See that child participates for at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity almost every day of the week, preferably daily. Remember that children imitate adults so, start adding physical activity to your daily routine and encourage the child to join you. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity are:
- Brisk walking
- Jumping rope.
- Playing football
Reduce Sedentary Lifestyle of a Child:
We must make sure to see that the child is not only involved in physical activity but also avoids too much sedentary lifestyle. Although reading time and homework time is fine, limit the time children watch TV, play video games, or surf the Web for more than 2 hours a day. Also, discourage children aged two years and above from watching TV. Instead, encourage them to find fun activities related to family or self.
Measures to be taken by School
- The foundation for good health for a lifetime is laid in childhood. Outside home, nothing gives children more attention and experience than school. This means that schools will have the opportunity to improve the health of young people and deal with child obesity at the right time before any problems can arise.
- One of the ways schools can have a positive impact on childrens’ health is directly related to the mission of each school: to teach students. Integrate nutrition and sports into the curriculum. Physical education and extracurricular activities teach skills that help students choose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In addition to evidence-based nutrition classes and school physical education, the training must also focus on motivating students with high-quality and regular activities.
- Schools can also promote health outside the classroom by encouraging students to eat healthy food and stay active. To improve nutrition, schools can include suggestions for healthy food in the cafeteria and eliminate junk food. To improve activities, schools can develop safe hiking and cycling routes to schools and promote active recess time.
- Teachers and staff should follow the wellness programs which should also be an integral part of improving the school environment, not only to improve the health of teachers and staff but also to encourage student enthusiasm for student-focused programs.
- Also, schools should provide and function as important data sources for student health. Anonymous information at the school level about obesity, such as BMI can help educators and policymakers evaluate the success of the current program on obesity and determine the direction of the program in the future.
- With proper efforts, school-based prevention programs should help students eat better, be more active, and lose weight. Schools should be ready to become an integral part of the struggle against obesity with general education. The faster we act, the better the result.
Here is a summary of child obesity prevention measures to be followed by parents and schools. Schools should make progress in improving the school food available in the cafeteria and physical activity environments. Parents should provide healthier meals to students for lunch at school; limit their access to low-nutrient, energy-dense foods during the school day. Schools should increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of physical activity at school.
For more detailed guidance on these measures and ideas, contact Dr. Venu Gopal Pareek.