27 May 2004

Let's Do Something Now

During last week's meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in Manhattan, Dr. Bonita Falkner of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said that as many as 3% of children had high blood pressure and that another 10% or so were considered pre-hypertensive.

Now, new American guidelines strongly recommend that high blood pressure in children should be treated agressively. American pediatricians are now instructed to "routinely evaluate children with high blood pressure for risk factors like elevated cholesterol or early signs of diabetes, as is done for hypertensive adults." Pediatricians should also look for signs of organ damage, especially enlargement of the heart. [Read the report here]

That's the view from America. In England, it is far worse.

A three-year-old died from heart failure brought on through obesity in England recently. The dead youngster was a Bengali girl from east London. Dr Nigel Meadows, a consultant paediatrician at the Royal London Hospital, said: "It was a shocking case. You don't imagine your kid is just going to die of obesity. The parents were devastated. Some may say the parents are responsible, but if a child is demanding food it can be very difficult to refuse it."

But that's just the point, right? Most of the time, parents should learn to say no to their children. Of course, it is easier said than done, but we've got to start somewhere. They should also be encouraged to learn the right ways to feed their children. The consequences are painful enough if they do not listen.

England has the fastest growing obesity problem in Europe, with childhood obesity tripling in 20 years. A damning report made by their Commons Health Committee warned that obese children could become the first generation to die before their parents. The same report calculated that being overweight or obese costs the nation £7.4 billion a year. The committee went as far as calling for a voluntary withdrawal of TV advertising of junk food to children. and calling for a Cabinet-level public health committee to oversee action on obesity across departments. England's chief executive of the Health Development Agency said: "Obesity poses a massive risk to the health of the nation and we are facing a race against time to stop this problem becoming a national disaster. Prevention is better than cure, ideally we should be striving for a society where there is no inappropriate weight gain in the first place, to stem the tide of obesity and related ill-health."

In the US and in England, they are very alarmed by their growing obesity problem. Their government institutions are preparing guidelines and instructions for health professionals to tackle the problem. Here in my country, the authorities and legislators are busy and ever so busy debating on how to canvass the electoral votes for president and vice-president.

The war against obesity was said to be "a race against time." Here in my country, the authorities are not even worried. Just pray for us when we die.

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