At a recent news conference, officials from the National Health Commission said that more than 50 percent of adults and about 20 percent of children in the 6-17 age group and 10 percent of those under 6 are either overweight or obese. That China has 600 million overweight people in all likelihood means it is facing a serious health problem. In fact, the 2021 Food Guidelines for Chinese Residents say obesity has become a major threat to Chinese health.

Obesity can be the cause of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Obesity is defined as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that poses a health risk. Obesity, in most cases, can be attributed to the imbalance between the intake and burning of calories, especially foods containing fat and sugar.

A person’s body weight is closely related to their diet and the amount of exercise. Eating habits can be influenced by economic development and lifestyle.

In the past, many Chinese people suffered from malnutrition due to the country’s underdevelopment. Thanks to China’s rapid economic growth, people are now consuming more nutritious foods, including foods high in carbohydrates, high in fat, and low in protein. They are therefore more likely to consume foods rich in energy, fat, salt and sugar.

Also, thanks to the growing popularity of online take-out platforms, people are getting used to foods that are excessive in fat and have a tendency to over-consume foods that are very high in calories.

Also, there is no official definition or classification of unhealthy foods that are easily accessible to children. To make matters worse, many TV shows and commercials are full of images of unhealthy foods, many of which are endorsed by celebrities. As a result, many children become regular consumers of such unhealthy foods.

Obesity is also related to a lack of physical activity. Economic development brings fierce social competition and a sharp decline in physical activity. Adults and school children are forced to work and study over time in order to adapt to rapidly changing society. And many children skip physical education and exercise to focus on academic study – this has long been the norm in Chinese schools. Worse still, many children lead sedentary lifestyles due to their early exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets as they prefer screen-based recreational activities over outdoor games.

In the age of food insecurity, obesity has been linked to wealth. For decades, efforts by the Chinese authorities have been aimed at ensuring adequate food supplies and combating malnutrition. But in recent years, the Chinese government has recognized that obesity has become a social and health problem, and has taken measures and activities to reduce people’s obesity. For example, the government’s draft for a healthy China 2030 outlines the importance of preventing and controlling obesity among school children and promises to reduce obesity and overweight rates by 2030.

And while the National Nutrition Plan (2017-30) published in 2017 aims to encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles by reducing their daily salt intake by 20 percent, an action plan for 2019-30 suggests 15 special campaigns to “get into the Intervene health. Influencing factors and preventing and fighting serious diseases “and maintain good nutrition to avoid obesity.

For its part, the Ministry of Education has promised to increase the weighting of physical education over academic subjects in the entrance examinations for the upper level and to carry out studies on the feasibility of including sports performance in the university entrance examination. The authorities have also introduced a National Nutrition Week in the third week of May to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition to human health.

In recent years, the government has formulated guidelines and taken action to address the obesity problem, demonstrating its adherence to people-centered governance. The aim is to reduce obesity and address weight control problems in childhood.

However, obesity prevention and reduction measures are not free from problems. For example, food processors are more focused on delicacies and less on nutrition, and the per capita playground in China was just 1.8 square meters in 2020. Also, there are no guidelines to guide people when choosing foods that are low in sugar, low in salt and low in fat. Medical treatment for obesity is also not well developed.

Therefore, all relevant government departments should work and cooperate to implement obesity prevention strategies and educate people about daily food intake and the importance of physical activity.

In short, China needs to optimize its obesity prevention and reduction policies and create a supportive environment to encourage people to voluntarily adopt healthy lifestyles.

The author is the deputy director of the School of Public Administration at Nanchang University. Views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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