WHO issues guide on childhood obesity

WHOThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidance on emerging double threat of childhood obesity and under nutrition in low- and middle- income countries.

It said many low- and middle-income countries are neglecting overweight and obesity as major health threats, with policies in place to tackle under nutrition, but lack policies to halt the growing burden of diseases due to the rise of overweight and obesity.

The guidance which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by Fadéla Chaib, Communications Officer of  WHO noted that more than 75 per cent of overweight children live in developing countries with the prevalence in Africa almost doubling in the last 20 years.

It said obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, with an increased risk of diabetes and other diseases.

It said to help countries close these policy gaps, WHO has issued a consolidated package of 24 Essential Nutrition Actions, which outline the most effective ways countries could improve their peoples’ nutritional status by preventing both under nutrition and overweight.

The WHO guidance held that there are many factors during pregnancy and infancy that could affect an older child and an adult’s weights.

It said interventions include: improve nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding women; encourage early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then continued breastfeeding up to two years; promote appropriate solid foods for young children and provide micronutrient supplements and fortified foods, when needed.

It said under nutrition, obesity and overweight – were forms of malnutrition with their causes and consequences closely linked to inadequacies in the food system.

“A food system that does not deliver a sufficient amount of quality food can lead both to poor growth and to excess weight gain.

“A child who has grown poorly in his first years of life may turn into a short but overweight adolescent and then later in life, develop chronic disease as an adult.

“Many policies to address the other half of the “double burden” of malnutrition—obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke—are much further behind, especially in Africa and South-East Asia,” it noted.

The WHO guidance observed that even when policies to address obesity exist at a national level, they are often not implemented at provincial or district level; adding that only one third of surveyed countries regulate the marketing of foods to children, and only a few had taken measures to reduce salt or transfats in foods.

It said focusing on these essential nutrition actions, countries could reduce infant and child mortality, improve growth and development, and improve productivity.

It is said worldwide, more than 100 million children under five years of age are underweight and 165 million are stunted.

“An estimated 35 per cent of all deaths among children under five are associated with under nutrition and at the same time, some 43 million children under five are overweight or obese,” it said.

Source: GNA

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