Obese children focus of health drive

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-02-20 07:54

SHANGHAI: Authorities here have launched a program designed to reduce obesity among primary school children in the city by significantly over the next three years.

The health, education and sports bureaus joined forces last week to tackle the problem, the Laodong Daily reported yesterday.

A boy eats his lunch at a summer camp for overweight kids in Shanghai in this file photo. The camp is designed to teach youngsters about healthy eating. [China Daily] 

The bureaus will first conduct a survey to find out how many obese students there are. Dieticians will then help design healthy menus for them.

The municipal bureaus will also provide advice on diets to school cooks and launch "nutrition knowledge promotion stands" on campuses warning of the harmful effects of junk food.

A survey conducted recently by the health bureau showed 15 percent of boys and 9 percent of girls aged seven to 18 were overweight. Both figures are higher than the national averages of 11 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Experts attribute childhood obesity to unhealthy dietary habits, insufficient physical exercise, inadequate sleep and excessive amounts of salt in meals.

"Children like hamburgers, French fries and other foods that are high in calories and fat," Wang Shixiong, a pediatrician at Shanghai Xinhua Hospital, said.

"They don't like vegetables or fruits and don't eat sufficient staple foods," he said.

Obese kids are more prone to cardiovascular diseases and diet-related illnesses, such as diabetes, than children of normal weight, Wang said.

Gu Chen, a teacher at Guangming Middle School in Shanghai, said both school and family should play roles in educating children about the dangers of obesity and diabetes.

"For example, at our school, students are encouraged to do at least one hour of physical exercise every day," he said.

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