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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid