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Childhood obesity is reaching "alarming proportions" in many countries around the world, an unrecognized public health issue that has dire health consequences for tens of millions of individuals, according to a major new report commissioned by the World Health Organization.
In 2014, an estimated 41 million children under age 5 were overweight or obese. That number is only expected to increase, mostly in low-income countries. According to US government data, obesity affects 8 percent of children ages 2 to 5 in the United States.
Children who are obese are far more likely to remain obese as adults, the report states, placing these adult individuals at risk of chronic illnesses -- such as cancer. Aside from not smoking, AICR research suggests that staying a healthy weight is the single greatest factor adults can do to reduce their cancer risk.
The Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) report, presented to WHO on Monday, was a two-year process to address the alarming levels of childhood obesity and overweight globally.
Children who are obese are far more likely to remain obese as adults, the report states, placing these adult individuals at risk of chronic illness – such as cancer.
According to the report:
There is no single intervention to stop the growing obesity epidemic, the report states. The ECHO report proposes six key recommendations for governments aimed at reversing the rising trend of children aged under 5 becoming overweight and obese. A failure to act will have "major medical, social and economicconsequences."
1. Promote intake of healthy foods
Implement comprehensive programs that promote the intake of healthy foods and reduce the intake of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and teenagers (through, for example, taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods).
2. Promote physical activity
Implement comprehensive programs that promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors in children and adolescents.
3. Preconception and pregnancy care
Integrate and strengthen guidance for the prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) with current guidance on preconception and antenatal care.
4. Early childhood diet and physical activity
Provide guidance on, and support for, healthy diet, sleep and physical activity in early childhood and promote healthy habits and ensure children grow appropriately and develop healthy habits (by promoting breastfeeding and limiting consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt, for example).
5. Health, nutrition and physical activity for school-age children
Implement comprehensive programs that promote healthy school environments, health and nutrition literacy and physical activity among school-age children and adolescents.
6. Weight management
Provide family-based, multi component, lifestyle weight management services for children and young people who are obese.