A key factor that determines a child's quality of life is their upbringing. Parents who give offspring a wholesome start in life have happier, healthier children. Keeping them happy, however, may be a bit complex. But keeping them healthy should not be. This is why it is so alarming so many children are beset by health issues, including one that has no business in a poor country: obesity.
Obesity among the young is almost an impending health catastrophe. The World Health Organization estimates that 36%, or one in three Jamaicans between 13 and 15, is overweight or obese. That means they are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer. Obesity is the gateway to other non-communicable diseases as well, many that affect children’s quality of life.
The unwelcome financial costs are staggering. Diabetes, hypertension, and chronic respiratory illnesses are expensive to treat. Doctors’ visits and drug prescriptions can be a financial burden in many households, more so if surgery is required, as is sometimes the case.
We all know the cure is expensive, so we should focus on prevention. Adjusting the grocery list to give children balanced nutrition is a good start. We should also educate parents to limit the processed meals children eat at home and encourage their physical and sports’ activities. These interventions are far less costly than treating a child's health complications.
In schools, we can support and monitor the ban on sugary drinks in school cafeterias and tuck shops that Health Minister Christopher Tufton engineered with the help of the Ministry of Education. Taken together, smart steps at home and in school can help us avoid the looming crisis of childhood obesity and its effects on our children’s health.