jump to navigation

Obesity Epidemic in Children January 17, 2010

Posted by Dr. Jacqueline E. Campbell in Obesity and Children.
Tags: , , , ,

Miss P. recently took her 8 year old son to see me ” Doctor, this child is just getting too fat. All he does is eat junk food and drink soda ”
“So where does he get that sort of food from?” I enquired.

“At home,” she replied.

“So who buys the food?” I asked.

“I do,” replied Miss P. “So doctor what can you going to do about his weight?” This scenario plays out frequently in my office.

I do not have any statistics on our population, but what I have observed in the last 15 years of practice is that the children are getting “bigger.” It is not uncommon to see an 8 year old who weighs 100 pounds or more! Think of this parents, how old were you when you reached 100 pounds? Well I reached that weight when I started University!

We are killing our children

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 17% of American children and teens ages six to 19 are overweight. Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that obesity in children has become an increasing problem in Jamaica.

According to the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey 2006, one out of every four adolescents between the ages of 15 to 19 years is overweight. This finding is also supported by the monthly clinic summary report from hospitals and clinics across the island, which show that 6.7 per cent of children below the age of five, are overweight.

To make matters worse, according to a recent report in the British Medical Journal, children don’t tend to outgrow their “baby” fat. Researchers found that children who were overweight at 11 were just as likely to be overweight at 16.

Along with the rise in childhood obesity, there has been an increase in the incidence and prevalence of medical conditions in children and adolescents that had been rare in the past. Pediatricians and childhood obesity researchers are reporting more frequent cases of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and hypertension that once were considered adult conditions.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

– Hypertension
– Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
– Type 2 diabetes
– Coronary heart disease
– Stroke
– Gallbladder disease
– Osteoarthritis
– Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
– Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)


There are many contributing factors. These include too many soft drinks and junk foods available at home and school; less opportunity for active play inside school and at home; and too much TV. Take a look at many of the increasing number of housing schemes being built in Jamaica and you will see mini-mansions built to the outer limits that the land can hold. This in turn provides much room inside for computers and television but no yard space for children to play. More meals are eaten outside the home, there is easy availability of inexpensive fast food with larger portion sizes and aggressive TV advertising of junk foods. This all adds up to overweight children. In the long run it boils down to this fact: Most children are getting fatter because they are moving less and eating more.


The solution for children is the same as for adults – exercise more and eat less. However, this is a tricky group to bring around. Children are coping with all sorts of complicated and confusing messages and issues, and it’s up to parents and caregivers to guide them.

Early parenting decisions set the stage, for better or worse. Breastfeeding reduces the child’s risk for obesity later in life.

Other things to think about:

Do you put water in the bottle or sippy cup instead of juice? How much TV are you going to allow your child to watch? Are you providing enough opportunity for outdoor play?

Be a good role model. Parents who watch more TV have children who watch more TV, and children eat the way their parents eat. If you dine on chicken nuggets and French fries, your child is likely to do the same.

Instead, opt for baked chicken and salad, and whenever possible make it yourself at home.
Always have healthy snacks on hand.

Don’t keep unhealthy foods in the house. If there are no soft drinks, potato chips or white bread available, your child can’t snack on them. (And neither can you!)

Provide whole foods rather than processed foods or beverages. A piece of fruit contains more fiber and nutrients than fruit juice. If your child insists on fruit juice, dilute it by half with water.

Turn off the TV. On average, children watch three to four hours of television daily, and the more TV, the more obesity.

Eat meals as a family. Getting together at the table and sharing the day’s news is not only nurturing, it’s also likely to add fewer calories than mindlessly shoveling in food in front of the TV,

Never use food as a reward or punishment. Don’t offer candy or cookies as bribes for good behavior.

Build more activity into family time. Instead of going out to a movie, go for a walk or go swimming.

Support your child. Overweight kids already feel bad about themselves, so make sure you let your children know you love them unconditionally no matter how much they weigh.

Consult your physician. If your child is overweight, it is especially important to get regular medical care.

He/she needs to be monitored for possible problems such as high blood pressure and/or diabetes. Additionally, your doctor can help you devise a safe exercise program and nutritional plan.

DR. JACQUELINE E. CAMPBELL B.Sc. (Hons) M.Phil. (Pharmacology) M.B., B.S.

Dr. Jacqueline Elaine Campbell is a family physician whose special interests are Pharmacology, and the use of Alternative/Complementary Medicine in the treatment of diabetes and other diseases that are common in Jamaica.

She is the author of A Patient’s Guide to the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus.




1. Judith Thompson - January 20, 2010

Interesting article. I’ll use it in my church bulletin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: