Challenges of childhood obesity in a developing economy: A review
Background: Obesity once considered a high income country’s malady is now on the rise in most developing countries particularly in urban settings. Most of these emerging economies have been reported to have different shades of under – nutrition coexisting side by side with over-nutrition. It is pertinent therefore that we determine the factors driving the increase in obesity rates in developing countries as they generally lack the infrastructure to adequately handle the associated complications.
Objectives: This communication is aimed at reviewing the burden and risk factors for obesity in children in developing countries, double burden of malnutrition, challenges including medical as well as economic costs and sustainable preventive programmes of obesity in our environment with the hope of sensitizing both the health community and policy makers of this emerging epidemic.
Methods: We searched relevant literature on the subject published only in English language or translated into English language manually and electronically. The Index Medicus, AJOL, Medline, PUBMED, and HINARI were specifically searched for the period between 1980 and 2014 and reviewed. The following key words were applied in the search: Obesity in childhood, its burden and associated risk factors, complications of obesity in childhood, double burden of malnutrition in developing countries, assessment of obesity, childhood challenges of obesity including its direct and indirect costs in developing countries as well as practical preventive models in developing economies.
Results: Several relevant studies were identified. The health as well as economic costs of obesity is diverse. Obesity is the major risk factor for a variety of non – communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and malignancies in later life. Also obese children have higher risk of orthopaedic problems and psychological disturbances like low -self esteem and bullying. This can also lead to poor social adjustments among our teeming youths who are the bedrock of our future economy. Most of these diseases cause premature deaths in addition to long term morbidities. Many of these obesity associated complications impose substantial burden on the health care system in developing countries with weak health systems, and if allowed unmitigated the implications are that the cost of its care may overwhelm not only the health budget but also affect the provisions of basic social amenities.
Conclusions: Preventive programmes have been shown to reduce the burden of obesity in developed countries. Dearth of data on burden of obesity and its associated complications in children and adolescents still a challenge in most developing economies. Efforts should be made to prevent childhood obesity using multi- pronged approach at population level through targeted education, sustainable interventions related to healthy nutritional practices as well as physical activity promotion.
Key words: Challenges; Obesity; Children; Developing Economies