School closures may raise obesity among kids: ExpertsUpdated: Apr 05, 2020, 23:27 IST
New Delhi: School closures due to the Covid-19 outbreak could exacerbate childhood obesity, according to epidemiologists from the New York Academy of Medicine and others published in Obesity journal.
Increase in obesity among schoolchildren during the summer recess has already been documented by US public health experts. Surplus weight usually accrues every summer and obesity experienced at as young as five years of age has been shown to be associated with a higher BMI (body mass index) at an older age, even up to 50 years.
More than 30 million children receive subsidised school lunches and food insecurity rates are higher for such families during summer months when there is a break in schooling. Only three days of school closures could result in 405,000 missed meals among schoolchildren in the US, according to the authors of the study cited above. Along with the impact of calorie-dense foods that can be stocked up during lockdowns, children in urban areas don’t have much physical activity due to a social distancing intervention. The authors cite data to show that online video game usage is already soaring.
In India, 115.9 million children are enrolled in the midday meal scheme. But due to the lockdown and disruptions associated with the Covid-19 outbreak, many states are not able to give children these meals. The human resource development ministry on March 20 asked state governments to provide either hot cooked midday meals or a food security allowance for the children’s families to buy food.
“As the country is passing through the difficult times of the Novel Covid-19 (Corona) outbreak The State Governments and Union Territories are advised to provide hot cooked Mid Day Meal or Food Security Allowance, whichever is feasible, to all eligible children till such time their schools are closed due to Novel COVID-l9 (Corona) Virus. The modalities for this purpose may be decided by the respective States…the regular Mid Day Meal shall resume as soon as the schools reopen,” the letter to the states reads.
Kerala was among the first to start delivering meals to schoolchildren at home. The state serves 2,584,156 children in 12,327 schools. The menu includes a banana, an egg and milk along with vegetables, pulses and rice.
“It’s very difficult to say what health impact the children here are going to face because the school closure may not be long-term. More worrying is the long-term impact on the socioeconomic condition of the parents. The government should deliver midday meals to children wherever they are,” said Dr Anand Krishnan, professor, Centre for Community Medicine at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences.