Physicians are becoming aware of their role in the fight against child obesity since they see the serious consequences and the alarming rates in the prevalence of the obesity itself and the related diseases. Worldwide low and middle income countries are facing in addition to malnutrition for food scarcity, another type of malnutrition for excess of refined food and sedentary life style.
Childhood obesity is a leading worldwide epidemic with grave consequences for children and adulthood, heading to cardiac diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as mental health problems and stigma when it becomes a morbid obesity, disability and finally premature death. Those diseases, also called non-communicable epidemics will cause bankruptcy to most of the health systems and the consequence of having an adult population with disabilities.
Causes are mainly due to a global shift to a high intake of fat and sugar but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients, the reduction of physical activity and also the skyrocketing price of crops and food in general. Fat and refined sugar give a wrong sensation of energy which is the reason people become addicted them, forgetting the balanced diet that their parents and grandparents use to have.
Changes or reversing the vicious lifestyle and type of diet and physical activity are the key points to lead a change and prevent those diseases. No miracle diets, no miracle pills will work. Young people are dying because they want to be thin and they do anything to reach that goal until starvation and death. Others eat to calm their anxiety. All these changes can only be successful through education and role modeling.
In our NPH homes, we help educate our population through good lifestyle habits by promoting sports and physical activity as well as cultivating fruits,vegetables and farm animals to make a sustainable source of nutrition.
Can you imagine harvesting:
Swiss Chard 90 Kgs
Peppers 4600 Kgs
Auyama (type of pumpkin) 633 Kgs
Avocado 30 Kgs
Charm 4600 Kgs
Uyama 633 Kgs
Potatoes 7085 Kgs
Onions 434 Kgs
Lettuce 3535 Kgs
Cucumber 2700 Kgs
Beet 195 Kgs
Cabbage 118 Kgs
Tomato 5400 Kgs
Yuca 12000 Kgs
Pork meat 507 Kgs
This is only a part of what NPH Dominican Republic harvests bi-annually in its greenhouse to strive to be self-sustainable and provide healthy food to the children. Additonally, the home saves money when they have excess of production which they sell to the staff or community. Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras NPH homes are working on making a source of food more sustainable with a variety of healthy vegetables, fruits and animals.
In Latin America, more than 9 million people suffer from hunger. The problem is not the production, but the access to basic products for the poor. 2009 and 2010 where key years where the price of basic food rose more than 30%. Mostly due to speculation on prices. According to FAO, prices slightly went down in 2013.
Physicians have an important role: to educate and support the obese patient; set examples with their own lifestyle and attack the underlying causes.
At NPH, being self-sustainable is a productive and effective way to provide healthy and balanced nutrition.
Contributed by Pilar Silverman, MD
Medical Director, NPH International