Alarm bells ring on child obesity | india | Hindustan Times
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Alarm bells ring on child obesity

india Updated: Mar 23, 2009 01:10 IST
Alifiya Khan

Shreelata Iyer, a Dindoshi resident, learnt it the hard way that chubby cheeks and baby fat are not quite desirable. It had left her 11-year son panting and puffing while climbing stairs to their sixth floor home.

“Our elevator was under repair for four days. I realised my son had a major weight problem; he had to catch his breath after every two floors,” recalled Iyer (36), a homemaker. “My son was less active than his grandfather,” she said.

Paediatric nutritionists in city hospitals are witnessing an increasing number of obese children who walk in to control obesity. The city’s first paediatric nutrition clinic was inaugurated at the New Horizons Child Development Centre (NHCDC) in Goregaon two weeks ago.

Most paediatric nutritionists agree that almost a third of their practice involves obesity control in children, and blame
parents for the problem.

A study by the city-based Asian Heart Institute conducted on Navi Mumbai schoolchildren a few months ago found that one out of five children was overweight and the level of physical activity of these children was two-thirds of the desired level for their age group.

“Earlier we dealt more with children having epilepsy, diabetes and autism to balance their nutritional needs. Now it is obesity control. Apart from referrals, many just walk in with their obese children,” said Dr Poornima Prabhu, paediatric nutritionist, Hinduja Hospital.

“If just nutritional disorders were ruled out, the burden on healthcare would be largely reduced,” said Samir Dalwai, director, NHCDC. “We insist children meet the nutrition expert before meeting paediatricians.”

Besides nutrition counselling, the clinic will focus on physical exercise, behavioural changes and parental counselling, he said.

Besides dietary counselling, parents need behavioural counselling, says Dr Mallika Kabra, paediatric nutritionist at NHCDC. “Bribing children with chocolates for small acts, forceful eating, watching television while eating are a strict no-no,” said Dr Kabra. “A complete lifestyle change has to introduced to improve health.”

“The number of children coming to our centre with parents for obesity has definitely increased. Often the children may appear strong, they have a lot of nutritional disorders,” said Dr Paula Goel, who runs an adolescent obesity programme at Fayth Clinic, Prabhadevi.

Though nutritional disorders rank high in paediatric problems, doctors complain that there are few centres that can offer specialised services. “There are not many trained paediatric nutritionists in the city,” said Dr Deepak Ugra, president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics.