Teachers’, Parents’, and Children’s Perceptions of Childhood Obesity in Ras Al Khaimah
January 01, 2012
Heaviness and obesity have become as much of an epidemic worldwide as they are in North America, affecting approximately 1 in 10 children. “In 2007, an estimated 22 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight throughout the world” (WHO, 2009). There has been a substantial increase in child obesity rates in developing countries due to the adoption of the unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors of the Western world. Recently, high rates of children who are overweight have been reported in many transitional societies, including countries in the Middle East, because of the prevailing cultural and social factors. For example, rates of adults who are overweight or obese now exceed 65% in many countries of the Eastern Mediterranean (A. Alwan, personal communication, WHO, 2008). “The prevalence of [children who are overweight] in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the highest in the world: over 30% of all children in the UAE are overweight or obese” (Malik & Bakir, 2007, p. 17), with studies showing a consistent increase in both conditions occurring among males and females, ages 2 to 18 (Khader et al., 2009).
This brief examines the issue of children’s becoming overweight and obese and discusses how this is affecting the UAE. Using the case of Ras Al Khaimah, it will also address some of the challenges children face in regard to physical activity and healthy eating. It concludes by providing recommendations for policymakers on ways to reduce obesity and promote healthy lifestyles in Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE.