Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Doctor's Appointment | Childhood obesity is a family concern

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2017 | 12:01 AM
Host of TV show ‘Doctor’s Appointment’, Dr Sara Lawrence (left), listens keenly as Jamaica’s only paediatric endocrinologist speaks to the cultural misconceptions related to being overweight. He reiterated the need to have our children eat healthy foods, snack with good nutrition in mind, and how much efforts to eat right should be a family effort.

In the first of a two-part discussion on childhood obesity, we learned that this condition has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the more prominent public-health issues we are facing in the 21st Century. In addition, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) concluded that the Caribbean region is on the brink of a regional endemic.

But in a culture where being overweight is associated with good health and prosperity, as captured in endearing terms such as 'fluffy', certain eating practices and misconceptions give way to childhood obesity. One traditional misconception is the need to give birth to fat babies or have children who grow up 'chubby' because it is seen as a sign of good family health and an ability to provide.

This week's guest, Dr Leslie Gabay, Jamaica's only paediatric endocrinologist, said children usually eat based on the requirement of their body but as they get older, stipulations are made as to when and what amount they should eat. Between 18 months and two years, they enter the 'picky eater phase' where children typically begin to shed what is termed 'baby fat' because they grow faster than they are able to put on weight. Those who do not show signs of this normal phase, generally are expected to become overweight or obese.

Gabay cautioned that being obese has medical concerns, including children developing type II diabetes earlier, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and certain forms of cancer.




With children, however, it is more difficult to decide whether obesity is present. Therefore, a graph is used to assist with the determination process. Depending on the range in which the child's body mass vitals fall, taking into consideration his or her age, a conclusion of appropriate weight, overweight or obese is drawn. A child who weighs more than 85 per cent of the population is considered overweight, those over 95 per cent are obese.

In assessing a child's weight, his or her environment, the family's history, eating patterns and relationship with food are also taken into consideration. Data shows that if one parent is obese, it is more likely that his or her offspring will be obese also. If both parents are obese, the child is almost certain to be as well. Hereditary factors are not always the culprit. Doctors will need to investigate hidden causes to excessive eating and ruling out self-esteem issues and other trigger factors, including eating to compensate for stress or emotional imbalance.

Strict steps must be taken to address childhood obesity. Children will not necessarily outgrow being overweight or obese. A family approach to eating healthy is most effective and should be taken to burn calories. Preparing meals with the children is a great way to encouraging kids to eat healthy, also parents get to spend quality time with the children.

- Join us next week on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on TVJ when we continue with part two of this discussion. 'Doctor's Appointment' is a family and health-oriented television programme that is produced by Maverick Communications Limited, aired exclusively on TVJ.