Healthy living key for children
Children are never too young to be taught how to live healthy lifestyles. In fact, I have found that children, when taught the correct way of doing anything, will constantly caution and remind adults about what they are doing wrong and this holds true as well, when they learn about healthy living.
That said, a study done in four Caribbean countries has found that 30 per cent of children ages 11 through 13, are overweight or obese. I do believe that given the statistics, adults have not been playing their role in advocating that children live healthy lifestyles, as much as they should. This may be so because adults themselves are guilty of consuming vast amounts of unhealthy foods and leading sedentary lifestyles. So how then can they preach to their own children or relatives about “living healthy”? This reminds me of a situation where it was said that there were some nurses who were on the heavy side, who were quarrelling with patients about being overweight. Is it a case of do as I say, but not as I do? Children live what they see in most instances, unless given an alternative.
Now the reality is that the number of overweight and obese children in the region has more than doubled over the last decade, due primarily to unhealthy diets and inadequate exercise. This is sad, as the consequences of overweight and obesity in children are serious, including breathing difficulties, hypertension, and early signs of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.
Here in Barbados, a number of projects have been undertaken in schools to promote healthy eating and healthy living in general. The aim has been to make key interventions while the children are still young, to see them change their dietary habits and to get them on the move, so that they do not come down with chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), as they advance into adulthood. These projects, however limited, are welcome. In fact, we want to see a whole lot more projects like these.
While some schools have a Healthy Lifestyle Day or even celebrate healthy living for a week, the effort needs to become more widespread. Numerous school children are still consuming salty and sugary snacks as well as sodas and with inactivity present, obesity is bound to step in.
We must get the message out there that children and adolescents who are obese, are likely to become obese adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis, down the road.
Healthy lifestyle habits, on the other hand, which include healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
By establishing a safe and supportive environment, with practices that support healthy behaviours, schools can play a particularly critical role in helping children to engage in healthy living. More importantly however, persons in the immediate household need to lead by example, so young persons can witness and follow good dietary practices and healthy living in general.