One in 10 schoolchildren worldwide is overweight, report says
At least 155 million schoolchildren — or 10 percent worldwide — are overweight and almost 45 million of them are obese, according to the first global assessment of child obesity, released yesterday.
The study, produced by the International Obesity Task Force, found that about 45 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are at heightened risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.
The report was presented to the World Health Organization in advance of a ministerial meeting next week on the adoption of a global initiative on diet, exercise and health, Associated Press reports.
The strategy, which WHO has been developing for two years, aims to tackle obesity before it becomes a global health crisis. One-third of all deaths worldwide are from ailments linked to weight, lack of exercise and smoking.
While industrialized countries suffer higher rates of obesity, the problem is rising quickly in the developing world.
Twenty-five percent of teenage girls in South Africa are overweight, close to the number in the United States, where obesity rates are among the world's highest.
Obesity is also increasing dramatically among poorer populations within individual countries. In the United States, obesity rose twice as quickly during the 1990s among Hispanic and black pre-adolescent children than among white children, according to the report.
The International Obesity Task Force, a group of scientists and research organizations, urged WHO to help countries develop national strategies designed to prevent child obesity.
Ricardo Uauy, one of the report's authors, said plans should include providing more opportunities for exercise in school, limiting television viewing and regulating snack food advertising and marketing to the young.
"This report is the result of one of the most comprehensive collaborations between experts in the pediatric field, all seriously concerned about what is happening to children throughout the world," said Uauy, chair of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We really cannot afford to delay any longer" (Emma Ross, AP/Northwest Herald, May 12).