BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for December, 2017

Sport is a type of physical activity- defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles, requiring the expenditure of energy. Lack of physical activity has been identified as the fourth risk factor for worldwide mortality, causing approximately 3.2 million deaths. Being a type of physical activity, it is easy to see and understand the benefits of engaging in sports. Participation in sports is beneficial for all ages, gender and body types because it promotes physical, social and mental health through cardiovascular conditioning, team mindset and stress relief respectively. There are various kinds of sports and some remain more relevant or popular in some parts of the world, they include: Football, Basketball, Tennis, Badminton, Javelin, Shotput, Running, Jumping, skating, Handball, Soccer, Skiing, Bowling, Cycling, Swimming, Squash, Hockey, Volleyball, Boxing…. And much more!

Football and Swimming for example are very common in many parts of the world. These sports are also entertaining in nature and can serve many purposes in the form of recreation, leisure, revenue generation and entertainment. Typically, Football is a global sport played with a spherical ball between two opposing teams constituting of eleven players in each team. Football is played by over 250 million people in over 200 countries, making it the world’s most popular sport. The game is played on a rectangular field with a goal post at each end of the field. The aim of football is to score goals by getting the ball into the opposing goal post and the team with the highest number of goals wins. Swimming on the other hand is an individual or team sport which involves the use of arms and legs to move the body through water. The sport takes place in pools or open water bodies such as rivers, seas and lakes. Swimming is one of the most popular Olympic sports, having distance events in butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle and individual medley. The aim of swimming as a sport event is to win competitors by being the fastest swimmer in any given event, as well as break personal or world records.

A good number of scientific evidence support the positive effects of engaging in sports and physical activities as part of a healthy lifestyle. These positive effects of regular physical activity are particularly obvious in the enhancement of the functional capacity of older people, as well as the improvement of quality of life and independence. Sports can also help in the prevention of chronic diseases, including: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis. A report by the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace states that young people can benefit from physical activity since it contributes to healthy bone development, efficient heart and lung function and improved motor skills or cognitive function. Physical activity can also help to prevent hip fractures among women and reduce the effects of osteoporosis.

Furthermore, studies have shown that sports have positive effects on depression and plays therapeutic roles in addressing a number of psychological disorders. Self-worth, including body image, has been linked to exercise and sports. Sport and physical activity can make substantial contributions to the well-being of people in developing countries as they are used in the treatment and rehabilitation of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Sports, from running track to playing football are exercises that act as stress reducers by causing the brain to release chemical neurotransmitters known as endorphins, which create euphoric feelings and reduce stress. Simply put, a mind focused on a game is not focused on worries.

Obesity is a worldwide health problem affecting all socio-economic groups, irrespective of age, sex or ethnicity. It is an established risk factor for cardiovascular disease, causing significant public health concerns in many countries. A World Health Organization study on nearly 130 million people, including 31.5 million children aged 5-19 years of age, found that the number of obese children and adolescents rose from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016. This showed that an additional 113 million children became obese within this period- a tenfold increase!

Obesityhas been shown to threaten the feasibility of basic health care delivery as it increases the risk of morbidity and mortality, especially in children and adolescents. The increased prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity in addition to the potential health implications, have emphasized the need for obesity-related services including research and assessment, treatment and care, as well as prevention and policy making. In the United States, average weight in children has increased by greater than 5 kg when compared to the last three decades. Despite the persistence of economic hardship and poor nutrition, low and middle-income countries report similar or more rapid increase in child obesity just as the wealthy and high-income countries.

Childhoodand adolescent obesity is caused by a multitude of factors including genetic, physiological, endocrine, metabolic, psychological, environmental and socio-cultural. Other factors that promote obesity are children’s choices, diet and physical activity. Poor diet and physical inactivity have increased dramatically in the 21st century, emphasizing processed, unhealthy foods and drinks and sedentary lifestyles. In this advent of technology, children have also become particularly exposed and vulnerable to the marketing, low price and widespread availability of energy-dense and nutrient-poor unhealthy foods and drinks- there is evidence to support that marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children is related to childhood obesity.

Immediate and long-term impacts of child and adolescent obesity on physical, social, and emotional health include: increased risk of chronic health conditions and diseases such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease; high tendency to be bullied and teased more often than their normal weight peers; increased likelihood of social isolation, depression, low self-esteem; and increased potential for adult obesity.
Co-morbid conditions associated with obesity include metabolic, cardiovascular, orthopedic, neurological, hepatic, pulmonary and renal disorders.

The treatment of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents requires a holistic, multidisciplinary, multi-phase approach which includes dietary management, physical activity enhancement, restriction and regulation of sedentary behavior, pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery. Policies targeted towards nutrition and child obesity should promote healthy growth, secure household nutrition and provide children with incentive to be active and chose foods of good nutritional quality. To properly address the challenge of child and adolescent obesity, the governance of food supply and food markets as well as commercial activities must be improved, and primarily aimed to protect and promote children’s health.

Globally, over 100 million children work in hazardous environment in various sectors including agriculture, mining and domestic labor. On some farms, children work long hours under extreme weather conditions, exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides that cause sicknesses. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, child laborers work underground, using toxic mercury to process gold, increasing the risk of brain damage and other serious health conditions. In Nigeria more specifically, child labor remains a major source of concern despite many legislative means to end it. The number of children under the age of 14 who work in Nigeria is estimated at 15 million. Common examples of jobs Nigerian children are involved in include street vendors, beggars, car washers, bus conductors and shoe makers. Others leave their families at an early age to work as apprentices, mechanics, hairdressers, tailors, house maids, domestic servants and farm hands. The most common practice of child labor in Nigeria is the use of children as child domestics or domestic maids.

International Labor Organization (ILO) defines child labor as any work that deprives a child of his or her childhood including the potential for personal, social, emotional, physical and mental development. Most countries define children by age- In Nigeria for example, a child is defined as an individual who is below eighteen (18) years of age. There are various kinds of child labor with the most extreme case involving slavery. Factors that determine if some kinds of work can be termed child labor include: the age of the child, the type and number of hours worked, the conditions under which the work is performed and the objectives or purpose of the work in the individual countries. Work which constitutes child labor refers one to one or more of the following:

  • Any work that is mentally, socially or morally dangerous
  • Any work that interferes with schooling by taking away the opportunity to attend school or that requires combining school attendance with excessively long and heavy work
  • Any work that is physically harmful to health or safety, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, and condones any form of abuse
  • Any work that constitutes slavery such as the sale and trafficking, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labor, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflicts
  • Hawking and unwilling separation from loved ones or abandonment at a very early age
  • The use, acquisition or offering of a child for prostitution, pornography illicit activities and drug trafficking

Research shows that child workers exhibit poor educational achievements because they have insufficient time to study, rest and engage fully in school activities. Major causes of child labor include widespread poverty, rapid urbanization, breakdown in extended family connections, high school drop-out rates, and lack of implementation of laws designed to protect children. Sadly, children are made to work in order to contribute to family’s income and survival. Monies earned by children have become a significant part of income in poor families. These children often experience fatigue, irregular attendance at school, lack of comprehension and motivation, exposure to risk of sexual abuse and involvement in crime either as perpetuators or victims and drop out from school.

Thankfully, international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and ILO work to abolish child labor and to ensure that all children are protected from jobs that interfere with their health, safety, and education.

Tropical Climates are generally described as dry climates in which there are average temperatures of at least 18 °C (64 °F). The tropics are characterized by hot and humid weather as well as abundant rainfall due to the active vertical uplift or convection of air. In areas that have tropical climates, there are usually two seasons- the wet and the dry seasons only. Typically, these kinds of climates, located around the equator, feature no frost and have limited changes in the solar angle. Temperatures in tropical climates remain relatively constant- mostly hot, throughout the two seasons of the year. There are three variations of the tropical climates and they include:

  1. Tropical rain forest climate: In cities like Kismu, Kenya and Santos, Brazil
  2. Tropicalmonsoon climate: In cities like Kochi, India and Libreville, Gabon
  3. Tropical wet and dry climate: In cities like Lagos, Nigeria and Naples Florida in the United States

As stated earlier, the major characteristic of tropical regions is the persistence of high temperatures almost all year round. High temperatures have health impacts and consequences in countries and geographical locations with tropical climates.  This is because temperature has an important influence on the presence and survival of insect vectors that cause vector-borne infectious disease. Specifically, warm temperatures are known to enhance vector breeding as well as facilitate the maturation period of pathogens within vector organisms. Of most significance are various species of mosquito vectors, which transmit diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever. This perpetuates the death toll of malaria since adult mosquitoes thrive mostly in warm tropical temperatures because they need humid conditions to remain viable.

The sensitivity of diseases to climate is demonstrated by the fact that diseases such as malaria are mostly confined to tropical and subtropical regions. This climatic sensitivity is also illustrated by the increased transmission of malaria in deserts and highland fringe areas where there are high temperatures and rainfall. Additionally, diarrhoeal diseases vary seasonally in the tropics, suggesting sensitivity to climate. They typically peak during rainy seasons emphasizing that floods and droughts increase the risk of diarrhoeal diseases. Important etiologic agents of diarrhoea linked to heavy rainfall and contaminated water supplies are: Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Giardia lambia, Shigella dysentrae, and Hepatitis A virus.

Given their humidity, many tropical areas provide the desired environment required for the adaptation of their various domicile plants and animals. The tropics are homes for many small animals including monkeys, birds, snakes, rodents, frogs, and lizards. Many of these animals and a multitude of insects remain on trees, never setting foot on the ground- using the tall trees for shelter and hiding places from their predators.