Abu Dhabi taskforce implements urgent plan to tackle rise of Childhood Obesity

The Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity taskforce announced the launch and immediate implementation of a comprehensive plan to address childhood obesity in the emirate following a meeting on Sunday.

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 (WHO) recommendations and best international practice.  

The six key categories outline focus areas for the taskforce to consolidate efforts and work towards ending childhood obesity in an effective way: implementing programmes to promote the intake of healthy foods; promoting physical activity; integrating guidance on the prevention of non-communicable diseases into current awareness guidelines for pre-conception and pregnancy care to reduce the risk of obesity.

Other categories include providing guidance and support to help promote healthy diets and physical activity among children from the very early stages of childhood to ensure sound development; implementing comprehensive programs to promote health nutrition and physical activity for school-aged children; and providing a range of services to families for weight management of children and adolescents who suffer from obesity.

Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of HAAD and Head of the Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Taskforce, said: "The Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Taskforce works diligently to shed light on childhood obesity as one of the most pressing health challenges we face today.

"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."

"Statistics from the report on Childhood Obesity in the emirate of Abu Dhabi indicate a significant number of obese children – an alarming statistic that highlights the importance of addressing this issue and ensuring the next generation is healthier, more active, and one which does not suffer from obesity-related diseases.

"This cannot be achieved without a collective effort from each and every individual and organization across our society. 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," he added.

The action plan aims to curb childhood obesity levels in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi by consolidating efforts in the following areas: the revision of curriculums in subjects that relate to health and physical education, setting a holistic framework of health nutrition for school students across the emirate's schools, health programmes and community awareness to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles, and focusing on prevention and management of childhood obesity for children with special needs in terms of education rehabilitation and healthcare.

Additionally, the task force aims to study urban planning efforts to support physical activity to improve the quality of living in the Emirate

WHO statistics reveal that during 2014-2015, 15.1 per cent of school students in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi were obese, while 16.7 per cent of them were overweight.

A related study also revealed that only 27 per cent of students engaged in 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

The Abu Dhabi Childhood Obesity Taskforce, which includes 12 government entities, received scientific recommendations from a scientific advisory committee reporting to the Taskforce, made up of experts within the Taskforce organisations including Abu Dhabi Education Council, Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council and Abu Dhabi Ambulatory Health Services, in addition to Zayed Military Hospital, UAE National Service Authority, Mubadala company, New York University in Abu Dhabi, Khalifa University, Zayed University, and UAE University.

Obesity is correlated with a number of negative effects on physical and mental health during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. One in three children in Abu Dhabi are either obese or overweight, making them more susceptible to being overweight or obese in the future.