Singapore acts to nip problem in the bud

When it comes to childhood obesity, Singapore and the rest of the world are in the same boat.

The proportion of overweight children in Singapore has shot up over the past four decades.

In 1976, 1.4 per cent of Primary 1 pupils were overweight or obese, as were 2.2 per cent of Primary 6 pupils. By 2006, this had gone up to 12.7 and 15.9 per cent, respectively.

Obesity rates among school-going children in general stood at 12 per cent in 2014.

This is in line with a major study published yesterday which showed that the number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold over the past 40 years.

The worrying trend has prompted the authorities in Singapore to introduce measures aimed at curbing the problem early. Their most recent efforts include stricter nutritional requirements for meals served in school and suggestions to get pre-schoolers more physically active.

Even then, experts say that more can be done to help keep children from packing on the weight.

This includes getting parents to play a bigger role, even when their child is still in the womb.

"Maternal health during pregnancy lays an early foundation to the general health of the child," said Dr Yvonne Lim, who is a consultant at the National University Hospital's paediatric endocrinology division.

"Pregnant women should maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight."

Parents have a major role to play and cannot just rely on school programmes to promote a healthy lifestyle, said chief dietitian Natalie Goh, who is from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

"If we do not do anything, there will be minimal change. Desirable habits can be inculcated," she said.

Obesity rates among school-going children in general stood at 12 per cent in 2014.

"Parents themselves can be important role models to their children - eat healthy, stay active together and limit screen time or use of electronic gadgets that promotes inactivity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore acts to nip problem in the bud'. Print Edition | Subscribe