No Kidding, Obesity is Serious

SHARJAH - More than half of the UAE’s children will be prone to fatal chronic diseases in the next few years due to obesity, according to the health ministry that says this huge projected figure has forced it to re-evaluate its school health programmes.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Tue 26 Jan 2010, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Oct 2021, 11:12 AM

A recent meeting at the health ministry reviewed the anti-obesity drive launched in schools nearly two years ago and decided to intensify the campaign after officials reported that “children today do not like to eat healthily or exercise” and “watch excessive TV”.

The meeting, however, said that Unicef’s Fat Truth campaign that concluded last year was a success. “What we have learnt from this campaign will be implemented in all school health programmes,” said Dr Mahmoud Fikri, CEO of Health Policy at the ministry.

He did not give details of the outcomes of the campaign but said that the anti-obesity drive would now focus more on preventive measures. School clinics will be equipped with exercise and weight measurement gadgets.

According to a survey conducted by the ministry last year, the number of obese children in the country stands at 52.8 per cent. The World Health Organisation has termed UAE as among the ‘fattest nations’ in the world.

“Two other aspects of the programme that will be maintained as such are education and awareness as well training of school health staff,” he said.

The updated school health programme has been partly implemented in select government schools in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman since December.

“We are maintaining three files on obese students that include the weight and related body measurements, mental health and status after conclusion of the programme,” said Dr Elham Zaki, Specialist Paediatrician who is overlooking the ministry’s programme in six schools in Sharjah.

wThree schools each from Dubai and Ajman are also part of the programme.

“This is an intensive programme in which we target only obese, not overweight children from the secondary section,” she explained.

The plan is to help at least 250 obese children in Sharjah lose weight in the coming few months. “We have on average 20 children in each school who need our help,” she added.

The programme also ensures that both the student and parents give a written consent before joining the drill that focuses on eating right and exercising.

The ministry’s plans in process include monitoring school canteens and giving children more access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We need preventive and training programmes as well as guidelines to manage obesity,” said Dr Mariam Al Matroushi, Director of Health Legislation Department at the ministry.

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