Children as young as 10 in the UAE are said to be 1.8 times more obese than those in the US, a frequency that is almost thrice the published international standards.
According to statistics from the First United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, schoolchildren/youth aged between 10 and 18 in the UAE are said to be more obese than those in the US. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report has classified the UAE as the second highest for obesity rates in the world, according to 'How the UAE can reduce the Prevalence of Obesity among the Youth? - A Health Policy Perspective' report done by Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, UAE, and Walden University, USA. The report was published in Advances Obesity, Weight Management & Control last month.
Dr Immanuel Azaad Moonesar R.D., Assistant Professor of Health Policy, Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government, who was part of the study, suggests the Heal (Healthy Eating And Living) policy based on the Health Belief Model.
"This could be a vehicle to promote healthier lifestyles and good nutrition through changing eating habits and choices," he said.
Though the programme has not been launched officially as yet; however, there are current plans being worked upon to have the programme launched at the schools via the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) and Ministry of Education in collaboration with hospitals and wellness centres across the UAE.
Dr Moonesar said that the Heal programme is only one aspect of the public health campaign.
"A self-assessment tool will be implemented using a School Health Index where that ratings of the eating habits, levels of physical activity could be recorded at the start, during and end of the term or semester (for instance 12 week period)," he told Khaleej Times.
The goal of the Heal campaign would be to equip young people with ways of improving what they eat and how they eat it through practice and exercises.
"Simple changes can have a huge positive effect and by working together with young people to change their behaviour, that change is more likely to be sustainable," he added.
With obesity, there are associated diseases, which tend to plague the UAE adults later including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension and others.
The Heal policy highlights this public health issue within the UAE context as obesity among the youths, and the framework for implementing a public health campaign among the UAE youths, whereby, contributing to attaining one of the UAE Vision 2021 National agenda targets for reducing the prevalence of obesity.
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