Mumbai: 21 percent school kids overweight, 16 percent obese, reveals survey

Updated: Nov 30, 2019, 09:23 IST | Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

Study of 9,000 students from city's private schools also said it was worrying that 59% of children spend over two hours on their smartphones.

Doctors say overcompensating, guilty parents in nuclear families allow their children to eat extremely unhealthy food
Doctors say overcompensating, guilty parents in nuclear families allow their children to eat extremely unhealthy food

At least 21 per cent of schoolchildren in Mumbai in the age group 11 to 15 years are overweight, while 16 per cent are obese, says a survey. These heavyweight findings are from a study conducted by a private hospital with a total of 9,000 children from different schools across Mumbai. Another shocking revelation it made, is that over 59 per cent of the children from this age group spend more than two hours a day glued to their smart-phones/TVs/laptops etc.

The study shows how physical inactivity is causing obesity in these children. It was conducted by Aastha Healthcare from Mulund, in 15 high schools located across Mumbai — both in the Central and Western suburbs as well as in south Mumbai. The 9,000 children included 4,806 boys and 4,194 girls studying in stds VI to IX.

The data was collected by personal interview with the students, using a pre-designed questionnaire based on body composition analysis — Body Mass Index (BMI), physical appearance, medical conditions they suffered from and diet. As per the survey, 1,028 of the boys were overweight and 817 were obese. From the girls, 805 were overweight and 612 were obese. The number of children spending time in front of TV/ laptop/ mobile phones for more than 2 hours a day was 5,337 (59.3%), while for less than 2 hours a day, the number was 3,663 (40.7%). Students also displayed effects of obesity like lethargy, breathlessness and dark patches.

The survey found 59 per cent of children in the 11-15 year age group spent more than two hours a day on their smart phones/TVs/Laptops
The survey found 59 per cent of children in the 11-15 year age group spent more than two hours a day on their smart phones/TVs/Laptops

Don't weight and watch
Dr Manish Motwani, bariatric surgeon at Aastha Healthcare, said, "When we were looking for problem of obesity, it was important to conduct the survey in schools where children are likely to be getting overnutrition. This is why, the target schools were private schools and not schools catering to children from underprivileged backgrounds."

Talking about the reasons for the condition, Dr Motwani said, "The most common cause here is nuclear families with working parents and a lone child. The maid appointed to look after the child has one major instruction, that the child should not cry. In this process, throughout the week, the child ends up eating everything that suits the tastebuds, which can lead to unhealthy eating. Furthermore, on weekends, parents who are guilty of not being able to spend time with the child, take him/her out to places like malls, and junk food is eaten. Another important cause is very little physical activity. If a child sees the parents on phone for a long time, he/she tends to replicate this. This is why after the survey, a class of recommendations was held for children, parents, as well as schools, to bring in lifestyle changes. Schools with canteen facilities were also advised on keeping nutritious, healthy food options on the menu."

He added, "Parents themselves need to start regular physical activities along with their wards to change the lifestyle. The mobile phones given to children at this age should be basic and not smart phones so that the purpose of keeping in touch is served, but at the same time, the child does not end up spending a large amount of time on the phone."

Battle of the bulk
The principal of Campion School in South Mumbai, Paul Machado said, "Schools are observing such cases and similarly changes are being made. They are introducing more outdoor games and other physical activities, or creating awareness about healthy eating habits. But all this will bear fruit when parents are part of the process. The age-group mentioned in the survey is of the one where parents put their children into tuition classes, leaving very little time for them for physical activity." Rupa Roy, principal of Balmohan School in Dadar, said, "The issue of obesity and overweight among children has been a phenomenon for the past decade. With increased access to digital screen-time, gaming etc, physical activity has reduced in this age-group. But most schools are already taking steps to create awareness and it is observed that even parents have started taking required steps towards fitness after awareness."

President of the PTA Forum, Arundhati Chavan, said, "These days, physical activity has reduced to a great level, even schools have few PT classes. Parents want the best for the child — they are ready to give her/him everything - but this might be affecting the kid adversely. Parents must be made aware of this to ensure good health for the children."

No. of boys surveyed

Chunky chart

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