Obesity and green developmentBy Amado de Jesus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It is very convenient for many of us to assume that childhood obesity is a major health problem mostly prevalent in developed countries such as the United States.
US First Lady Michelle Obama herself is leading a major campaign to help reduce the rate of obesity in America. After all, based on the latest statistics, more than 23-million American children and adolescents are either obese or overweight. In a 2009 study, the total cost of obesity in the United States reached $147 billion.
The World Health Organization has predicted that there will be 2.3-billion overweight adults worldwide by 2015 and more than 700 million of them will be obese.
The bad news is that childhood obesity is now a major concern in our country too. In 2003, the Philippine National Nutritional Health Evaluation and Survey showed that of the 19.6-percent Filipinos who are overweight, 4.9 percent are obese.
Obesity, especially among children, increases the risk of developing diseases such as high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and diabetes.
How we got into this situation
Some cases of obesity may be caused by genetics or other factors, but most are the result of changeable behavior like eating too much and exercising too little.
With the convenience brought about by many eateries today, many of the children are offered food with the unhealthiest kind of calories.
Consider too, the lifestyle of many of today’s children who are constantly plugged to their electronic devices, Internet or glued to cable television for many hours every day even cutting them off from the real world.
One definition is that obesity is an excessive accumulation of body fat. Obesity exists when total body weight is more than 25-percent fat in boys and more than 32-percent fat in girls (Lohman, 1987).
The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. A person is considered overweight if his or her BMI is between 25 and 29.9. One is considered obese if his or her BMI is over 30.
What can be done?
Green development can play a major role in addressing the growing problem of obesity among children and adults. Research shows a strong link between public health and recreational opportunities.
Through careful planning, design and construction of green spaces like parks and playgrounds some with water features, children and adults will have accessible places to walk, jog, bike, skate, swim or go kayaking.
Green development can include some site design engagements where educational programming on the land’s cultural and natural features can be maintained on an ongoing basis.
For example, community involvement in city farming promotes a sense of community ownership and stewardship of public open spaces.
Viewing areas for wildlife on tiered stone seating can be integrated. Even half-buried culvert pipes in playgrounds can be used to encourage families to enjoy the outdoors to accentuate the importance of play and exercise.
Crossing guard programs and traffic calming measures like street trees and speed bumps will protect children and the elderly as they walk to the park areas.
Well-paved street sidewalks, adequately lighted and therefore safe city streets will encourage people to walk.
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