Make Indian parents better aware of growth charts to prevent obesityBMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5546 (Published 16 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5546
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Pankaj Vohra's views on educating parents about the growth of children through growth chart is one of the many ways of preventing obesity among Indian children. Such an approach is in vogue for prevention of under nutrition and over nutrition among under five children in the Anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) of Department of Women and Child Welfare under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. The limitations of the scheme is restriction to cover the slum population in cities and rural population. The scheme can be fruitfully implemented provided the Anganwadi workers work with full capacity, right attitude towards work and under regular supervision. These workers are taught to show to the mothers about the growth of children and detect malnutrition related problems. But there has been hardly any impact on the prevention of malnutrition in the country. The records sometimes are not properly upgraded and often wrong entries mark the growth chart, making it an unreliable source of information regarding growth of children. We need to change our mindset regarding the functioning of the Anganwadi workers in the community. The anganwadi workers should change their behaviour in the recording and provision of extra nutrition to the children.
Parents' role in understanding and changing their behaviour after seeing the growth chart of their children can be complementary to the changes in the usual feeding habits for prevention of obesity. Teaching parents need time and patience which may not be feasible at all times in the Government hospitals which is plagued by a long line of patients in the OPD. A common platform for educating parents in groups could be one of the alternatives to teaching the parents in such a situation. There is a need to focus on translating the concept of balanced diet and its constituents in a simple, easy way to the parents. A strong focus on reducing the fast foods, foods with high fat content, and junk foods with hollow calories should be done. In addition, involvement of children in sporting activity, playing outdoors and restricting the time for video games, television should be encouraged.
Competing interests: No competing interests
We live in a mechanized society which has taken us away from our natural habits including our culture and life style. Modernization has resulted in aping western eating style, fast food culture and consuming caffeinated drinks. A big bowl of pop corn and a can of cola decorate the hands of children as well as their parents in multiplexes. Computer games mesmerize and freeze the children onto screens of smart phones, computers and even TV screens with play stations.
Even schools have canteens which are packed with chips, cakes and drinks to cater to these children.
We have modern gyms which build muscles with ready made proteins and sometimes even androgens to enhance muscle mass in the body.
Media and movies play onto the biological instincts of children with advertisements that promote junk food and drinks.
What can be done? The change must start with parents who must restrict the habit of picking fast food. They must spend time with children to create awareness about our Indian system of a meal - a full meal in breakfast, a half meal at noon and a light meal at night.
They must inculcate the habit of our traditional salutation to the Sun with Asanas associated with Surya Namaskar.
Taking Padmasan with breath control and meditation will develop the capacity to concentrate and focus.
A small journey to our villages visiting our friends and relatives, spending time with them will bring back our children's health soaked in love.
What we lack is the will to believe in our system of life and life style. What we need is a social awareness and physical fitness trained by our tradition.
Growth charts will show the numbers. But our belief in our life style will be an eye opener to a healthy living coupled with good sanitary practice, unadulterated food grains, milk products, natural meat and poultry.
We need to love our culture to love our body and health.
Competing interests: No competing interests