After holding seven regional consultations with more than 100 World Health Organization (WHO) member states and gathering information over the course of two years, the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) presented its 50-page report to the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. The facts are sobering. The rate of childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming pace and it’s truly becoming a global epidemic. These are the key takeaways.
1. It’s estimated that in 2014, 41 million children worldwide under five years of age were either overweight or obese; with 48 percent of these children living in Asia and 25 percent in Africa. These frightening figures suggest that if steps aren’t taken, an estimated 41 million children will likely go on to develop serious health issues. Attention should be paid to to ensure that your kids maintain a healthy weight. It’s never too early to start them on a healthy diet (it’ll be better for you, too).
2. Though there are more children in low- and middle-income countries who are obese and overweight than there are in high-income countries, the ECHO report found that globalization and urbanization are affecting lifestyle choices no matter how wealthy the nation. So Canadians do need to be concerned, too. This is a huge issue here as well—about one-third of Canadians aged 5 to 17 are overweight, according to Statistics Canada. The culprits are well known: kids are spending too much time on devices and they aren’t getting enough exercise. Plus, the availability of cheap processed food definitely plays a large role. What isn’t so clear yet is how best to tackle obesity in young children.
3. To fight this childhood epidemic, researchers say we need to start thinking about it, even before conception. Couples planning to have kids should get nutritional guidance and advice before and during pregnancy. It’s important to note that this does not mean mothers alone. Fathers should also ensure they are maintaining a healthy diet because the health of fathers before conception can influence the possibility of obesity in their children. Talk to your doctor about any existing health concerns you might have and about diet, as malnutrition during pregnancy can lead to obesity in children.