Children’s health: don’t take it lightly

Dental caries and obesity are fast emerging important public health concerns among Bengaluru’s school children. A recent study conducted on 83,000 children from 145 schools across the city by the Bangalore Comprehensive Child Health Alliance (BaCCHA) revealed that 21.7% of them were either overweight or obese, 7.5% were undernourished, 30% have dental caries, 3.4% clinical signs of anaemia and 15.2% problems with their vision. The study also found that 14% of the children surveyed were at risk of lifestyle diseases, including Type II diabetes, while 0.7% had enlarged thyroid glands.  None of these problems can be taken lightly as their impact on children isn’t only about undermining their physical health but also their emotional well-being and social adjustment. Over-weight and obese children, for instance, often suffer high cholesterol and blood pressure, and are prone to developing Type II diabetes, which in the past were restricted to the middle-aged and aged. Obese kids are likely to be teased and bullied at school, contributing to low self-confidence. Importantly, the implications of childhood obesity extend into extend into adulthood. Obese children grow up to be obese adults and not only develop diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age but also prone to premature death. Parents often ignore their child’s problems with tooth decay, assuming that this problem will go away once the milk teeth fall. However, children with tooth decay avoid eating, contributing to malnutrition and related problems.

Eating junk food and leading a sedentary lifestyle is adversely affecting the physical and emotional health of our children. Yet, high-calorie snacks and carbonated drinks continue to be sold in and around schools. Even parents do not insist on children eating nutritious and balanced meals as feeding children instant noodles is quick and convenient. With actors and cricket icons endorsing junk food and carbonated drinks in advertisements, impressionable children—and adults—are drawn to consuming these products.

Additionally, children are not getting enough exercise. They spend many hours on their mobiles or watching television instead of playing out in the open. There are numerous barriers to physical activity in our cities. There are few safe open spaces for children to play.  Besides, our roads and pavements are not suitable for children to cycle or walk to school. Urban planners need to pay more attention to such concerns. Parents play an important role.  If they eat nutritious food and lead a healthy lifestyle, their children will follow suit. The battle against junk food will not be easy given the fact that most of the popular snacks and aerated drinks brands are powerful multinational corporations. Still, it is not impossible to fight this challenge.

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Children’s health: don’t take it lightly

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