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Abu Dhabi launches major crackdown on child obesity

The Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity taskforce has announced the launch and immediate implementation of a comprehensive plan to address the growing health issue in the emirate.

The plan which focuses on six key categories, is a result of a cross-sector evaluation that assessed existing efforts to fight childhood obesity, challenges and opportunities, in addition to benchmarking against World Health Organisation recommendations, news agency WAM reported.

The focus areas include implementing programs to promote the intake of healthy foods, promoting physical activity, providing guidance and support to help promote healthy diets and physical activity among children from the very early stages and providing a range of services to families for weight management of children, it said.

Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, head of the Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Taskforce, said: “During our meeting, we worked on developing frameworks and providing effective recommendations across a number of key areas to address this challenge and ultimately fulfil our objective of ending childhood obesity in the long run.

“It is fitting that our efforts in tackling this health concern are mostly focused on children since they represent the very foundations on which we can build a healthier more active future for our society.”

Recent statistics indicate a significant number of obese children in Abu Dhabi with 15.1 percent of school students deemed obese, he said, adding: “We would also like to stress the critical role that parents must play in urging their children to adopt a healthy lifestyle that combines physical activity with healthy eating habits.”

The action plan aims to curb childhood obesity levels by revising curriculums in subjects that relate to health and physical education and setting a framework of health nutrition for school students.

Additionally, the task force aims to study urban planning efforts to support physical activity to improve the quality of living in the emirate, WAM said.

Obesity is correlated with a number of negative effects on physical and mental health during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.9 billion people were overweight or obese in 2014. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has 26 million people classed as severely obese, making it a major public health concern.

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