The prevalence of childhood obesity in Jamaica should be a worrying concern for well-thinking Jamaicans. It is estimated that 20 per cent of children aged three and four years old, 11 per cent of children 10 to 15 years old, and 35 per cent of teenagers between 15 to 18 years 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 were overweight between ages 10 and 15 years, were obese adults at age 25.
In addition, the rise in childhood obesity has led to an increase in the incidence of non-communicable diseases in children and adolescents that had been rare in the past. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that obese children, as young as five years old, were already showing signs of heart disease that could seriously increase their risk of heart attack and stroke as they get older.
Unfortunately, some parents are not perturbed about the high risk of childhood obesity, because they still hold on to the myth that a fat child is a sign of good health. It is high time for this nation to wake up and take charge of our health. It is going to take the collective will of institutions such as homes, schools, churches, manufacturers, and government to really make an impact on childhood obesity.
We know the cause of the problem, it is the same as obesity in adults, and it does not reside in the genes alone. Rather, it is the diet that is loaded with sugars and fats and limited physical activity. Who is going to take the responsibility to limit the amount of these substances to our unsuspecting children and motivate them to increase their physical activity?
Our children's health is not an option, it is a necessity. Let us get together and do this for the future of our nation.
125 Manchester Road