Addressing Obesity Among Filipino Children

Sen. Edgardo Angara

By Sen. Edgardo J. Angara

Over the years, the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases among children in the country has risen sharply. The numbers have doubled over the past couple of decades and tripled over the last 30 years. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shockingly reveals that over 3 million children in the Philippines are overweight or obese.

The idea that big kids are healthy kids no longer holds true. A big child used to be a sign of wealth and prosperity and was never seen as a bad thing. Today, childhood obesity is being regarded as the newest form of malnutrition, which has affected not only the affluent Western countries, but also the Asian countries like the Philippines, as it poses numerous health risks.

A considerable number of our school-aged children are overweight. According to studies, children who are fat between the ages of four to 11 tend to carry the problem into adulthood. If left unchecked, the current generation of children will have a shorter life span than their parents because they are at greater risk of contracting a myriad of diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer, metabolic disease, respiratory diseases, liver disease, and coronary heart disease.

Inadequate physical activity, hormonal conditions and poor nutrition are often cited as the culprits for the rapid increase in obesity among children. For me, the lack of concerted action to address the disturbing levels of obesity in the country should also be blamed. We have to develop various strategies to lessen this condition along with the health hazards associated with it.

Last year, I launched what I believe is one of the most meaningful and viable health advocacies in the country: the “Oh My Gulay! (OMG!)” campaign, which pushes for ensuring the proper nourishment of children, especially those in elementary school.

This project aims to impart the importance and advantage of eating vegetables as a solution to malnutrition. Through planting squash, string beans, eggplant, tomato, bitter gourd, and other crops, children have access to nutritious food.

According to the World Hunger Education Service, there are two types of malnutrition. The first is the protein-energy malnutrition or the lack of protein and food that provides energy which is referred to when world hunger is discussed. The other type is the micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency, which may cause obesity.

Obesity, therefore, is not a result of lack of calories but excessive calories and poor nutrition. Hence, we need to encourage our schoolchildren to consume vitamin- and mineral- enriched food like fruits and vegetables to prevent obesity and other related diseases. Aside from this, the government should also adopt an international manual for the monitoring of the marketing and selling of food to schools.

More importantly, we should teach our kids the importance of proper nutrition as well as the diseases that they may acquire as a result of poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. This may be done by incorporating health and nutrition modules into our basic educational curriculum as I believe that proper information and education are the most important steps in preventing obesity in children.

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