An unhealthy lifestyle and an over reliance on medicines have led to 20 percent of local children becoming obese as well as big increase in those suffering from stunted growth and early puberty.
Pediatricians from Changhai Hospital, who work for the city's first outpatient service dedicated to children's growth, now treat between 20 and 40 such patients every day.
"The percentage of obese children is still rising and we are not paying enough attention to the problem," said Jiang Jinjin, director of Changhai's pediatrics department.
"Children's obesity is difficult to treat because we have to control weight without influencing physical development. Many of these obese children already have signs they could develop coronary heart disease and hypertension."
Height is another big concern for children and their parents.
Experts believe many local residents are "blindly following" advertisements for medicines that claim to help children grow taller.
There are about 300 different factors that can lead to children developing the stunted growth syndrome known as nanism, including poor nutrition, bad sleep, depression as well as tumors and diseases of the thyroid gland.
Nanism causes children to grow at less than five centimeters a year, about 10 percent below average.
"Children who show any symptoms should go to a doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment," Jiang said.
"The best time is at the age of three or four and many parents wait too long to take their kids to the doctor."
Many local children are more aware of their height now than ever before and are desperate to grow taller, according to medical officials.
(Shanghai Daily News November 4, 2004)