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Survey Finds Obesity Rife Among Children in Thailand



The number of obese and overweight Thai children has increased fivefold.

BANGKOK – Thai Health Promotion Foundation says weight issues and obesity are two of the biggest health problems facing Thai children — a trend that could cause Thailand to miss its target of improving nutrition and achieving food security by 2030, according to a recent survey.

The survey on Thailand’s status regarding the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), carried out by the National Statistics Office and the National Economic and Social Development board, found problems of being overweight and obese among Thai children aged under five increased two-fold to 10.9% between 2015 and 2016.

Thailand’s status on meeting the SDGs was also published in a recently-released progress report that provides an overview of the world’s implementation efforts to date, highlighting areas of progress and areas where more action needs to be taken to ensure no one is left behind.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Friday launched the latest findings of the 2017 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition during the Asia-Pacific Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition.

According its findings, globally, the percentage of children aged under five who are overweight increased to 6% in 2014. If current trends continue, the SDG objective will be largely missed by 2030.

Being overweight is a growing problem affecting nearly every region, it said.

“Globally, 41 million children in this age group are overweight; almost half of them live in Asia. In Southeast Asia, the prevalence of overweight children under five years increased from 3.2% in 2000 to 7.4% in 2014,” the report said.

The Department of Public Health of Thailand also reported that one of every five pre-school children have an obesity problem and that weight problems and obesity should be considered a national agenda item.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, as the FAO’s Special Goodwill Ambassador for Zero Hunger in the region, on Friday called upon 250 participants including parliamentarians, policy-makers, academics, researchers, students, civil society, private sector and development partners from countries across the region to work together to find solutions.

She said better efforts were needed to enable better production, processing and distribution of food, as well as more effective ways to promote better nutrition and healthier diets throughout food systems.

“The world has committed to zero hunger and improving nutrition as a key outcome of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals … We must look at improving our current systems of production and patterns of consumption, and set a course of action,” she said.

“Having visited people in remote areas in Thailand and other countries, I witnessed first-hand the situation of food insecurity and unhealthy practices that contributed to severe malnutrition, particularly in children,” the princess said.

Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg distinguished associate professor of global food and agriculture policy at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, said all parties should work together to create demand for healthier food as people have been increasing the calories they consume especially artificially sweetened foodstuffs and junk food.

Meanwhile, inadequate consumption of fruits, vegetables and a decelerating rate of supply growth due to depletion of natural resources could be seen in regional countries including Thailand, she said.

Vinod Ahuja, policy officer, FAO regional office for Asia and the Pacific, called for more innovation to stem food loss and food waste in a cost-effective manner, which could also play an important part in improving overall food systems.

By Chanat Katanyu

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