Childhood obesity has worryingly increased in Vietnam, with the prevalence of corpulence doubling after 10 years and the highest rate recorded in urban areas, where more than 40 percent of elementary school students are deemed obese, health authorities have warned.
The warning was given by the Ministry of Health at a conference held recently in Hanoi to announce the results of the 2019-20 National General Nutrition Survey.
As shown in the survey, which is carried out every ten years, the rate of overweight and obesity among school-age children (5 - 19 years old) climbed to 19 percent in 2020 from 8.5 percent in 2010.
That means this prevalence has more than doubled in the past decade.
In urban areas, the rate is 26.8 percent while those in rural and mountainous regions are 18.3 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.
This rate among elementary school students in urban areas is as high as 41.9 percent.
Obesity not only affects appearance but also causes health problems, such as metabolic disorder, and elevates the risks of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, and fatty liver, experts said.
It may also cause musculoskeletal disorders involving the tibia and spine, and undermine the immune system, especially in children whose weight is 10 kilograms above the standard.
“The main reason is an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure, which stems from parents compelling their children to overeat,” said Dr. Bui Thi Nhung, head of the School and Occupational Nutrition Department under the National Institute of Nutrition.
As a result, children may become obese from the preschool age and their obesity continues developing over the years, Dr. Nhung said.
There have been cases in which children had an excessive weight of 3 - 5 kilograms as preschoolers and that figure increased to 8 - 10 kilograms when they entered elementary school and to 15 - 20 kilograms when they became middle school students, the doctor pointed out.
In a survey of 600 mothers in Hanoi, Da Nang and Hai Phong, 47 percent of the respondents said their children were malnourished although they actually were in normal nutritious conditions, while only two percent of the mothers whose children were obese admitted the obesity of their children, Dr. Nhung told the conference.
Besides such incorrect assessment, many parents impose inappropriate development regimens on their children, resulting in an imbalance between diet, physical activity, and lifestyle, which leads to overweight or obesity.
Many parents, due to their hectic schedules, let their children eat the main meals out of their control, resulting in overeating.
A study by the health ministry shows that 39 percent of elementary school students in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are not physically active as required.
An unhealthy lifestyle also affects the child’s weight.
Children who sleep less at night, for various reasons including spending a lot of time on smartphones or television screens, easily develop the feeling of hunger, which leads to excessive food intake.
Dr. Le Danh Tuyen, director of the National Institute of Nutrition, recommended parents use tools such as the body mass index to find out if their children have a weight problem.
It is necessary to create more playgrounds for children to help them improve their physique, Dr. Tuyen said.
“We need a consensus and cooperation between parents, schools, and society to drive back childhood overweight and obesity,” he concluded.