Report: 10% of World’s Kids Overweight

( [email protected] ) May 15, 2004 12:26 PM EDT

According to a recent report submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1 in 10 of the world's schoolchildren are overweight, and about 45 million of them have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses before they leave their teens.

At least 155 million overweight

The report, issued by the International Obesity Task Force—a coalition of independent obesity scientists and research organizations—estimates that at least 155 million, or 10%, of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are overweight, and almost 45 million of them are obese.

The report found that in South Africa, 25% of teenage girls are obese—figures similar to the average in the United States, which has one of the world's biggest obesity problems. The report also found that in Europe, childhood obesity has increased steadily, with the highest prevalence in southern European countries. Findings also showed about 15% of children in northern Europe are obese, compared with about 30% in the southern part of the continent.

Action needed

Calling on the WHO to help countries to develop National Obesity Action Plans with a high priority set for tackling the prevention of childhood obesity, the report says action is needed to:

• provide clear and consistent consumer information, e.g. on food labels;

• encourage food companies to provide lower energy, more nutritious foods marketed for children;

• develop criteria for advertising that promotes healthier eating;

• improve maternal nutrition and encourage breast-feeding of infants;

• design secure play facilities and safe local neighbourhoods;

• encourage schools to enact coherent food, nutrition and physical activity policies;

• encourage medical and health professionals to participate in the development of public health programmes.

The findings were submitted to the World Health Organization on the eve of a critical vote by the world's health ministers next week on the adoption of a global strategy on diet, physical activity and health