The Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition informed that the number of children whose weight gain was increasing and reaching proportions of childhood obesity was rising, and while the statistics changed from school to school, and area to area, percentagewise the figure was 10%-15%.
There are approximately 4.8 million schoolchildren in Sri Lanka.
A recent national research report published by the Department of Census and Statistics observed that one out of six Sri Lankans, a figure which as a percentage is 18%, suffer from a chronic disease including from chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, cancers, and mental diseases. The report also highlighted that 50% of those over 60 years of age were among the 18%. The report also noted that the frequency of diseases spreading among children under 15 years had rapidly escalated. Director of the Non-Communicable Diseases Unit of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition, Dr. Thilak Siriwardena said that children being overweight constituted a major problem. As far as diabetes is concerned island-wide, rurally the sufferers constitute 8% while in urban areas with cities and towns the figure is 12%, he remarked.
The figure of 18% in the report is a generally acceptable one, he pointed out, adding that cancers, mental diseases, strokes, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like asthma were also prevalent. Risk factors are the use of alcohol and tobacco, an unhealthy diet and the lack of physical activity along with mental stress and environmental pollution (respiratory illnesses such as asthma do result from the inefficient use and burning of solid energy sources like firewood, signified by the presence of a yellow flame on the stove), he explained. “We have national programmes on NCDs, mental health, cancer control and units on nutrition and nutrition coordination.,” he said.
Due to the competitive nature of education, children tend to focus solely on and engage solely with education. They sit in classes. They do not eat vegetables or fruits. They tend to consume sweets such as chocolates and doughnuts. Their lifestyle is unhealthy,” he pointed out.