High prevalence of child obesity in Jakarta sparks concerns
Dewanti A. Wardhani
The Jakarta Post
More and more children in Jakarta are increasingly overweight and obese due to an unhealthy diet and lack of supervision from parents, raising concerns of long-term degenerative diseases.
Indonesia Medical Nutritionists Association (PDGMI) secretary-general Yusnita Anie said that the trend was worrisome. 'There is a trend of over nutrition among children in Jakarta. This may cause degenerative diseases, which could be very dangerous for the child's health,' Anie told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
According to triennial research conducted by the Health Ministry released earlier this year, the prevalence of overweight children in Jakarta had increased in 2013 compared to 2010.
In 2010, the overweight and obese prevalence in children aged 5-12 in the city was 12.8 percent. Calculations were based on body mass index for age.
The national percentage was 9.2 percent. Jakarta was among the top three provinces with the highest number of overweight and obese children, only lower than Southeast Sulawesi (14.7 percent) and West Papua (14.4 percent).
However, in just three years, the numbers have sharply increased.
In 2013, using the same method, the Health Ministry found that the overweight prevalence among children aged 5-12 in Jakarta was a shocking 30.1 percent. Jakarta's percentage was much higher than the national average of 18.8 percent. Jakarta was followed by Lampung and Bangka Belitung.
Anie, who is also a nutritionist at St. Carolus Women's and Children's Hospital Summarecon in Serpong, Tangerang, said that in some cases, parents tended to spoil their children with junk food, street food and sweets.
'One patient of mine, a four-year-old, is suffering from gallstones due to over nutrition. I was shocked that a child so young could suffer from such a serious disease,' she said, adding that the child's parents often spoiled him with greasy fried chicken, high-calorie hamburgers and even gave him coffee when he asked for it.
Anie said that infants who were bottle-fed with infant formulas rather than breast-fed had a higher risk of obesity.
She added that obesity was not exclusive to children of middle- and upper-class families but also occurred in lower-class families who often fed their children unhealthy street food. This could be seen in Kampung Pulo in East Jakarta, located on the Ciliwung riverbank, where mothers fed their toddlers greasy street food and brightly colored sweet beverages.
'Childhood obesity could lead to gallstones and diabetes, among other diseases, which in the long term could lead to cardiovascular and brain disease,' Anie said.
Separately, Jakarta Health Agency head Dien Emmawati acknowledged that obesity was one of the main concerns in her agency and that she was working on detecting childhood obesity in schools.
'The agency, in cooperation with each school's health unit, checks the students' height and weight. If they are overweight, we inform their parents,' Dien told the Post on Wednesday.
She added that her agency had also taken steps to provide more healthy food in schools.
'We have urged those selling in school cafeterias to provide healthy food. Some schools have adhered to it, and even started counting calories in each serving. However, a child's health ultimately depends on the parents,' she said.
Some parents, she added, still did not understand the importance of instilling healthy habits, or were not willing to change their child's diet.
For example, one mother, Junita Grace, said that she had difficulties changing her overweight son's diet because he would throw tantrums if she tried to feed him vegetables.
'When he was a toddler, I fed him junk food and sweets. He became addicted and refused to eat anything else,' she said.
Until now, Junita said that her son still asked for junk food.
Junita, who lives in Pancoran, South Jakarta, said that she had consulted a nutritionist, who had warned her that her son could suffer from cardiovascular disease if his diet did not change.
'I'm worried for his health but it's very difficult to change his diet. He often throws tantrums if I attempt to feed him healthy food,' she said.
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