New alert on obesity in children

Shaanaaz de Jager

CHILDREN from rich and poor communities in Port Elizabeth are getting “dangerously” fat – but from different foods. This is the finding by Andrea Waters who graduated with her Master of Arts in research, human movement science from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) yesterday.

“With children in the poorer communities it was a case of them eating higher carb foods such as bread and pap and less or no vegetables.

“On the other hand, families from the more affluent areas have a choice of buying takeaways or giving their children a balanced meal.” In this case, takeaways were being eaten too often, said Waters, who is an operations coordinator in the nursing science department at NMMU.

Her dissertation is titled “Body fatness and associated selected health risk factors among 10-12 year-olds in Port Elizabeth”.

Her research also touched on socio- economic aspects and malnutrition.

Waters said obesity was a “pertinent subject and a big problem”.

“People will look at third-world countries and think that there are no obesity problems but it happens here as well.”

During her research, she visited schools in Motherwell, Booysen Park, Kwazakhele, Mill Park, Mount Croix and South End, and tested 300 children at 11 schools.

She found that 30% of children were overweight and 15% were obese, with this figure being on the increase.

The associated health risks with a child being overweight or obese can mean that a child can develop diabetes, can become chronically obese as adults, or can develop cardio vascular risks as young adults.

Waters said it had been quite a process to get approval from the Education Department, school principals, parents and children. The topic and the method of measurement (testing) was also reviewed by the university’s ethics committee.

Waters, who is married and has a two-year-old son, said even though she enjoyed interacting with the children during her research, she also found that they were “challenging” to work with.

“With the children I had to do a multitude of tests, including physical measurement,” she explained.

Waters, who has an interest in working with children, said she would love to complete her PhD.

She also urged government to implement a policy where children must have physical education at schools and that food sold at tuck shops should be monitored.

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