Assisting the World Health Organization to effectively tackle the problem of childhood obesity

How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Assisting the World Health Organization to effectively tackle the problem of childhood obesity. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2015;8:319-20


How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Assisting the World Health Organization to effectively tackle the problem of childhood obesity. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Sep 28];8:319-20. Available from:

Dear Sir,

The recent estimates released by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that close to 2 billion adults are overweight globally, out of which an excess of 600 million are obese. [1] These rising trends have even affected infants and young children (0-5 years), with 42 million of them being categorized as either overweight or obese. [2] Further, it has been revealed that the majority of these overweight or obese children are living in developing nations (such as Africa), that have accounted for more than 30% higher number of cases than in developed nations. [1],[2] In fact, it has been anticipated that if no active intervention is implemented worldwide, the number of overweight or obese infants and young children might rise to 70 million by the year 2025. [2]

Childhood obesity is often associated with a wide range of adverse health consequences such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, osteoarthritis, increased risk for endometrial/breast/colon cancer, disability, impairment in the quality of life, and added direct and indirect medical expenditure. [3],[4] Thus, it is very important to understand the role of potential determinants (viz., gestational diabetes; environment attributes – settings in which children are conceived, born, and raised; food preferences in early life; limited availability or affordability of healthy foods; poor awareness about healthy dietary practices among parents; minimal physical activity due to more involvement of young children in the digital world, etc.) that can augment the problem of childhood obesity. [1],[3],[5] Further, it is a reality that in the absence of timely and effective interventions, these obese infants and young children will continue to remain obese during the childhood, adolescent, and adulthood phases of their lives. [2]

Acknowledging the magnitude and global prevalence of the problem, in the year 2014, the World Health Assembly adopted the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020. [2],[3] This plan aims to achieve nine global noncommunicable disease targets by the year 2025, including arresting the rise in global obesity rates in school-age children (Target 7, Indicator 13). [2],[6] As overweight and obesity are preventable problems, the need of the hour is to formulate supportive policies, and create a suitable healthy environment in schools and communities so that parents and children can be empowered to make a healthy choice of food and indulge in regular physical activity. [2],[7] In fact, social workers and home visitors have been deployed under various settings to target mothers and family members to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. [8],[9]

A wide range of strategies can be implemented to target different age groups and stakeholders to address the public health menace of childhood obesity. [2],[10] For infants and young children, it is essential to facilitate the initiation of breastfeeding within 1 h of birth, motivate mothers and families to continue exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and introduce nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months of age. [3],[8] In addition, school-age children and adolescents can be targeted by limiting energy intake from total fats and sugars, increasing the consumption of fruits/vegetables/legumes/whole grains/nuts, and engaging them in regular physical activity for at least 1 h every day. [2],[3],[10] Moreover, food manufacturers can be instructed to ensure the availability of healthy and nutritious foods at affordable prices, and at the same time reduce the fat, sugar, and salt content of complementary/processed foods, and discourage the marketing of sugar-rich, nonalcoholic beverages, and unhealthy foods. [2],[10],[11] Furthermore, as the problem of childhood obesity is multifaceted, WHO has constituted a high-level commission on Ending Childhood Obesity to accumulate advice from various experts (such as public health experts, social and clinical scientists, and economists) around the world and make appropriate recommendations for formulating a comprehensive plan. [2],[3]

To conclude, it is high time to address the problem of childhood obesity on a global scale as obesity begets obesity across generations and thus, if the cycle is not broken, the future generations will have to pay a huge price for controlling the same.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



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Cloutier MM, Wiley J, Wang Z, Grant A, Gorin AA. The Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Program (ECHO): An ecologically-based intervention delivered by home visitors for newborns and their mothers. BMC Public Health 2015;15:584.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.162662

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