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Saudi health, education ministries ready for second phase to reduce obesity among students

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health recently announced its plans to launch the second phase of its initiative to reduce obesity among schoolchildren.
According to an official from the ministry, the formal launch was made in February this year in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and 160 public and private schools, targeting some 50,000 students at all levels.
Under the program, teams of officials from the ministries of health and education will visit schools and conduct preliminary tests on boys and girls to evaluate their weight and height to determine their level of obesity.
As part of the program, educational lectures on the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity will be delivered.
Within the framework of its efforts, the Ministry of Health, represented by the Media and Health Awareness General Department, has developed many programs to lose weight by reducing the number of calories consumed by the individual and increasing physical activities.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.
Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more prone to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Obesity, as well as its related diseases, are largely preventable.
According to Saad Salman Al-Qarni, from the King Saud Abdul Aziz University for Health Sciences in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is now among the nations with the highest obesity and overweight rates due to a number of factors.
He said research reveals that the rate of obesity is significantly high in the country among different age groups and occupations; at different locations in the country; and among both males and females.
The main factors causing obesity include family history, diet pattern and eating habits, genetic factors, marital status, hypertension, and lack of physical activity.
The major consequences are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and ischemic heart disease.
Research has stressed the need to raise awareness on obesity and design programs and strategies to combat it in the Kingdom.

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