News / Health

    Overweight Children a Rising Concern in Developing Countries

    A photo of a partially-eaten McDonalds' Big Mac hamburger atop French fries, November 2, 2010.A photo of a partially-eaten McDonalds' Big Mac hamburger atop French fries, November 2, 2010.
    x
    A photo of a partially-eaten McDonalds' Big Mac hamburger atop French fries, November 2, 2010.
    A photo of a partially-eaten McDonalds' Big Mac hamburger atop French fries, November 2, 2010.
    Jennifer Lazuta
    The World Health Organization (WHO) says the number of overweight and obese children in the developing world is climbing at an alarming rate and countries need to do more to deal with the associated health risks.  In Africa, the number of overweight or obese children has doubled in the past 20 years.  

    WHO says that an estimated 43 million children worldwide under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2011.

    Three-quarters of these children live in low- and middle-income countries, many on the African continent.

    The terms overweight and obese refer to calculations of Body Mass Index, what doctors call BMI. They use people’s height, weight and age to assess their amount of body fat and then categorize them as underweight, normal, overweight or obese.

    The WHO says being overweight or obese can lead to serious long-term health problems like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
     
    The director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, Francesco Branca, says there are a number of reasons why people in the developing world are packing on the pounds.

    “The food system is changing and people are consuming more and more food that is manufactured," said Branca. "And often the manufactured food has a high content of sugar, fat and salt. So this is leading to overconsumption of food. Of course, this is also part of a normal change in lifestyle, with increased urbanization and decreased physical activity, as part of less physical labor, more motorized transport. So there are several components.”

    Experts say that not getting enough food or the right kinds of food remain a top concern in most of these countries, particularly for children.

    Branca says successful policy initiatives, such as urging exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life and the distribution of vitamin and nutrient supplements, have helped to reduced rates of child malnutrition and stunting in recent years.

    Now, he said, countries need to get proactive on childhood obesity.  

    “There is progress in the understanding of this problem, but now we have to be very clear about what the policy gaps are and what the effective actions are… It’s about adequate food, but also the marketing of food to children," said Branca. "And about the balance with the producers who manufacture food that have an adequate quality, and also a reduced content of sugar, fat and salt. And actions on how to shape the availability of this food.”

    Branca said stopping the explosion of overweight or obese children isn’t going to be easy.  Even developed countries, like the United States and the United Kingdom., haven’t been able to make much of a dent in their numbers.

    The current goal set by the WHO's World Health Assembly is to at least keep the percentage of overweight children from going up any further between now and 2025.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora