The ratio of overweight pre-school children in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, has increased fivefold in the past decade, a recent survey has shown.
Jointly conducted by Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Hospital and local health and education bureaus, the survey covered more than 2,000 6-to-7-year-old children. 4.17 percent of them are overweight.
"The ratio of overweight pre-school children was only 0.84 percent in 1996. It has almost quintupled in the past 10 years," said Xia Li, vice-dean of the Health Centre of Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Hospital.
According to Xia, if a child is 20 percent heavier than the average for a child of the same age, he is classified as being overweight.
"This means that the ratio of overweight kids would become higher if all those with moderate weight problems are counted in," said Xia.
Imbalanced diets and lack of exercise are the two main reasons for the problem among children of this age, according to Xia.
"As the only child in the whole family, children are spoilt by their parents and given food, especially fast food, with a high proportion of fat and calories. They also exercise less by sitting idle or watching TV in their downtown homes or schools surrounded by other buildings," said Xia.
Meanwhile, a survey initiated by Jiangsu Provincial Health Bureau, which was completed last month covering more than 8,000 school-age students (elementary and middle schools) from five cities in the province, showed that 25.7 percent of urban school-age students are above average weight.
The survey also found that the health of both pre-school and school-age students in the province was deteriorating.
"The excess weight has certainly affected the children's physical health," said a researcher surnamed Sheng with Jiangsu Sports Science Research Institute, which conducted the survey.
"Obesity can lead to a series of physical problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and even heart diseases and fatty liver syndrome which previously only affected adults," said Sheng.
Nanjing is not the only city with this problem.
A national survey in 2004 found that more than 7 percent of school-age students in the country are overweight, and the rate may be as high as 11 percent in affluent cities like Shanghai and Beijing.
Some of big cities have reportedly launched campaigns to control the problem.
But experts warn that efforts including encouraging balanced diets and exercise can succeed only through the combined efforts of society, parents, schools and the students themselves.
(China Daily June 6, 2006)