BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health- Child and Adolescent Obesity



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.

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