The prevalence of childhood obesity in Jamaica should be a worrying concern to well thinking Jamaicans. It is estimated that 20 per cent of children aged three to four years old, 11 per cent of children 10 to 15 years old, and 35 per cent of teenagers between 15 and 18 years old, are being classified as overweight or obese. The problem is that studies show that children seldom tend to outgrow their “baby” fat and that up to 80 per cent of children, who are overweight between ages 10 and 15 years, are obese adults at age 25.
The rise in childhood obesity has led to an increase in the incidence and prevalence of non-communicable diseases in children and adolescents that had been rare in the past. The cause of the problem is the same as obesity in adults. It is the diet that is loaded with sugars and fats and limited physical activity.
The best nutrition advice to keep children healthy includes encouraging them to:
• Eat breakfast
• Drink Water
• Eat a variety of foods
• Balance the food they eat with physical activity
• Choose a diet with plenty of grain products, vegetables and fruits
• Choose a diet low in fat, and little or no cholesterol
• Avoid foods with a lot of added sugar and foods high in salt
• Choose a diet that provides enough calcium and iron to meet the growing body’s requirements
• Avoid fast food, sodas and a lot of commercial juices and soups
Equally important, parents should talk with their children about their eating and activity patterns. Children should be active for at least 60 minutes on most days, and they should eat three to five healthy meals per day (depends on age) and avoid snacking. In addition, limit TV watching and computer time, to two hours a day, except when homework requires it.
The interaction of the home, church, school, manufacturers and government is the keyto protecting our children from childhood obesity. Remember our children’s health is not an option, it is a necessity. Let us get together and do this for our children’s health and the future of our nation.
BY Milton Gregory, Health Ministries Director, JAMU