More than 1.4 million Kenyan teenagers are at risk of obesity in the next 11 years, a report published by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) reveals.
Kenya has a one per cent chance of attaining the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of no rise in child obesity by 2025, shows the report.
“In Kenya, 8.4 per cent of children aged five to nine have been predicted to be obese by 2030 which makes 670,834 in number. For children aged 10 to 19, 5.5 per cent have been predicted to be obese by 2030 which totals to 793,121,” read the report.
“In total 1,463,954 children aged five to 19 have been predicted to be obese by 2030,” the report added.
According to the report, easier access to fast food, increasing screen time and motorised transport have been blamed for the escalating rates of obesity worldwide.
The report showed that in Kenya as of 2017 there were no policies on marketing of food to children.
However, it indicated that there were policies to reduce both physical inactivity and unhealthy diet related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya by 2017.
Sharon Chelagat, a nutritionist at Oak Tree Centre in Eldoret, blamed this on lifestyle choices and habits. “Our government should come up with policies to restrict fast food that is being advertised to our children and teenagers. I am not aware of any policy that governs this. Before foods are said to be fit for consumption, a lot of research on its long term effects should also be done,” she said.
The nutritionist said schools should also incorporate lifestyle lessons in their curriculum. “Parents also ought to be good role models to their children. Parenting issues contribute to our daily healthy lives. Parents should be the ones spearheading exercise routines in the family. Children will most definitely follow,” the nutritionist said.
“Over 90 per cent of childhood obesity results in adulthood obesity. Let us eat healthy. More fruits, more vegetables less of all these fast food and beverages like soda,” she added.
According to WHO, NCDs, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide.
WHO stated that the rise of NCDs has been driven by primarily four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.
Nine countries are predicted in the report to be having more than five million people aged between five and 19 living with obesity in 2030.
China is leading with 62 million, followed by India with 27.5 million, US (17 million), Indonesia (9.1 million), Brazil (7.7 million), Egypt (6.8 million), Mexico (6.6 million), Nigeria (six million), and Pakistan (5.4 million).
The annual cost of treating related health impacts could top a trillion dollars by 2025, WOF estimated in 2017.