City fights obesity with tape measures

By Wang Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-22 08:44
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City fights obesity with tape measures

Students from Sigenbai primary school measure the waists of their parents yesterday. The tape measures were distributed by the city's education and health bureaus to raise awareness about obesity among students and parents. Mirror Evening News

Primary students to monitor waistlines of themselves and their parents

The capital's primary school students are being enlisted to help with the weighty issue of growing obesity.

The students have been given tape measures to size up the waistlines of their parents and themselves during the winter holiday, which starts today.

The move was initiated by Beijing educational and health authorities in an attempt to understand and combat obesity and encourage a healthier lifestyle.

An official from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education said more than 600,000 cloth tapes had been sent to students. The waistline data will be collected at the start of next semester.

Mu Yiming, a resident physician at No. 301 Hospital and an expert in the field told METRO yesterday that the chance of people under 18 getting diabetes in 2009 increased 2.5 times compared to 2004. Mu said diabetes was one of the major causes of obesity.

He said the latest figures detailing the impact of childhood obesity in Beijing were collected by the Capital Institute of Pediatrics and six hospitals in 2008.

They show the obesity rate for children under 18 was 10 percent, a rise of 47 percent compared to the figure in 2000.

There were around 1.7 million children aged 18 and under in the capital in 2008.

The number of children seeing doctors in the obesity department at Beijing Children's Hospital doubled after students finished their final exams.

Li Shilian, a doctor in the department said more than 20 overweight children and their parents attend the center each day.

She said half the chubby children inherited the problem and the others were overweight because of an unhealthy lifestyle that, for many, includes excessive eating and a lack of exercise.

"My time in the hospital is occupied by these children suffering from obesity. I don't even have time to eat lunch and drink water," she said.

Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Child and Adolescent Health at Peking University, said the number of children with severe obesity is on a rise and his institute will conduct a nationwide obesity rate check in August this year.

He blamed excessive calorie intake and a lack of excise for the increase.

"Obesity will cause damage for children physically and psychologically. It may lead to diseases and obese children often become the target of discrimination from schoolmates," he said.

Li Zheng, 11, a sixth grader at Anwaisantiao middle school is 150 cm tall and weighs 65 kg.

"My mother is a little bit worried about my weight," he said. "I am ok with it. There is a guy in my grade who is 10 kg fatter than me.

"I normally eat four to five bowls of rice everyday and I always feel hungry. After class, most of the time I go home to study and watch TV. I am not a big fan of sports." A healthy height for a 10-year-old is 137 cm and a healthy weight is around 32kg.

Wang Rui contributed to the story