Childhood Obesity In China, A Rich Kid's Problem

Contrary to the West, where obesity rates are higher in poorer, less well-educated areas, China's overweight youth are from wealthy families. It has been dubbed a "disease of affluence."

At a fitness club of the Tianma Experimental School in Zhuji, east China's Zhejiang Province
At a fitness club of the Tianma Experimental School in Zhuji, east China's Zhejiang Province

BEIJING – Most Chinese parents used to consider childhood obesity a purely Western problem. But China has been forced to face the issue over the past few years, with statistics now showing rates of certain youth diseases linked to obesity have surpassed levels in the United States.

The International Association for the Study of Obesity published a recent study that found that more than 12% of China’s minors are overweight and one-third of children under 17 suffer from at least one cardiovascular risk factor, including 1.9% of China’s 12-18 year olds suffering from diabetes, four times the number of their peers of the same age group in America.

Meanwhile 14.9 percent of Chinese children and adolescents show early symptoms of diabetes such as elevated blood sugar, while 12.1% of Chinese teenagers have a high incidence of arterial inflammation which is the main cause of cardiovascular disease. In contrast only 8.5 % of adolescents in the United States face the same condition.

Contrary to the West, in China the richer an area the fatter the children are, and the higher the probability of them suffering from diabetes. It’s generally due to family education and diet changes. Just like adults, children of the affluent class also are more subject to this "disease of affluence."

Chinese people tend to have an overall lower awareness of childhood obesity and the chronic diseases it may cause. Well-educated and well-off parents tend not to have correct information about the issues of diet and exercise, and their children have greater access to foods that are high in fat and sugars and tend to be less physically active than the poor who don't own automobiles.

Thus the key lies in informing parents and children, which until now has been lacking in both the governmental and educational arenas.

While screening and preventive measures against childhood disease is utterly absent in China, in advanced countries nonprofit organizations, schools and insurance companies have established a relatively mature child health screening mechanism. For those kids who demonstrate high risk factors such as being overweight, the school or their parents' insurers regularly urge parents to take them for further examinations of the levels of blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.

China's health insurance coverage of childhood diseases is scant, and the protection is weak, with families forced to pay for most treatment and medicines for chronic illnesses. Thus health education and guidance are crucial. For instance, America's mobile health market has begun to launch apps for chronic childhood disease management that include games to help children understand diseases and guide parents in how to push their kids to eat healthily and exercise.

What will be the price of China's growing problem of childhood obesity? It is not just in the costs and pain of sick children now, but the health of the future labor force is also at stake.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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