Obesity, overweight and underweight all have impacts that are negative on self-esteem of many children and adolescents that if not checked can have long-term effects on the success in lives of these children and their general happiness in the future (Moran, 1999).
The persistence of chronic diseases in more in the developing than in the developed countries. The World Health Organization posits that by 2020, a quarter of deaths in the least developed countries will be caused by the so called non-communicable diseases, WHO, (1997). In this regard, a major mind blowing public health problem in the developing world may the reality of increasing obesity in children populations which might result to major social and economic burdens on these developing nations in the coming years, (Freedman et al., 2001).
This health care problem is present in almost all parts of the world and the Arabian Gulf region is not exempted. Surveys done in this region in the different areas and provinces specifically in Saudi Arabia show that there exists a prevalence of overweight, commonly known as obesity, local authorities implement programs in the education system that would help curb the rising weight problem among the school going children or prevent the obesity problem all together. The problem of obesity presents a big threat to the quality of life in the population present in the Arabian region (Al- Mahroos et al., 2001).Several reasons have been put forward to try and explain the prevalence of obesity that is on the rise in Saudi Arabia. The most notable one is the major economic growth that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has experienced in the last thirty years. This economic boom has resulted in very noticeable changes in both eating habits and the level of physical activities amongst the Saudi population. Combined with the effects of westernization in the lifestyles, reduced activities that involve physical efforts and the sedimentary ways involved in the daily lives, these make the bulk of contributors to the prevalence of the problem of obesity and overweight in the Saudi population, (Al-Quaiz, 2001).
According to El- Hazmi & Warsy's (2002) Comparative Study of the Prevalence of overweight and obesity in children in different provinces of Saudi Arabia, many experts argue that over weight in children can be caused by many a factors including dietary imbalance, poor eating habits and in some instances hormonal etiology that is still a bone of contention in the scholars world. To help understand the problem of obesity in Saudi Arabia, a study was conducted in the Eastern province from where data collected was compared to those of children who are not of Saudi origin. The data was collected for a period of six months from January 2006 in the city of Al-Khobar. The sample that was studied included seven thousand and fifty six children aged between two (2) and eight (8) years. Of all the children, the males made up 55.7% while the female constituted 44.3% while in terms of nationality, 79.4% were of Saudi origin and 20.6-5 were from various non-Saudi nationalities . When classification was done in terms of body mass index, it was found out that 57.7% had normal weight for their ages and sexes. On the other hand 19.0% were found to be overweight and the other 23.3% were obese. None of the children was found to be underweight but the study also found out that the rates of obesity was higher in older children. Regarding the distribution of weight according to sex, the study showed that obesity was prevalent among males at 26.5% than among the females at 19.3%. In terms of nationality or country of origin, the statistics showed that there was an insignificant difference in normal weights, obesity and overweight 9in children from either within or without Saudi Arabia.
In its report on global strategy on diet released in (2004), the World Health Organization asserted that obesity has been a will always be a problem that the world will grapple with till the appropriate actions are taken on the prerequisite conditions put in place to help address this menace among both the adult and children populations of the world. In 2001 the world body shouldered with the responsibility of health, World Health Organization confirmed the fear that 10% of the world's children were suffering from obesity and that the figures were in the upward trend in the developing countries amongst whom Saudi Arabia falls.
Barlow et al. ( 1998), posits that the statistics released by the World Health Organization in 2002 indicates that there has been a shift in disease burden with many deaths in the world being associated with non-communicable diseases who major causes include malnutrition, and lack of physical activities in the general population of the world.
Of the many studies that have been done in Saudi Arabia to evaluate the impact of obesity among the Saudi Children, one occlusion can be easily arrived at. This's that obesity and overweight is present in all provinces in Saudi Arabia, Al- Nuaim (1996).In his journal, Obesity amongst female children in North West Riyadh in relation to affluent lifestyles, Alam (2008), insists that the studies should be done in schools were the prevalence of class is common as this would help in coming up with concrete theories and statistics that can be used in future studies on the same subject
In his analysis of most of the studies done on the area of obesity and overweight in Saudi Arabian school going children, El- Hazmi (2002), concludes that the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, that mostly consists of affluent neighborhoods, has the highest rates of obesity and overweight in children compared to the Southern Province, which has the lowest rates in the country and is considered to be a rural setting.
Obesity and overweight are now a major problem in public health world over. Quick fixes will not help due to the complexity of the problem and given the fact that there is a constant interaction in the sense availability of high energy foods while the lifestyles we live decrease the demand for energy expenditure. These two have great bearing in the genetics make ups of the bodies that are taken through this process of excessive intake of high energy foods and limited activities to dispense that energy. The difficulty of treating obesity and overweight makes this problem a food for thought for medical researchers and all interested stakeholders. Despite the skeptics surrounding this issue, it is believed that dietary balance, physical activity and behavioral change used concurrently, can be a good management strategy at least in the short-term (Henderson et al., 2003). Efforts it mitigate this problem should be directed in the prevention of obesity being carried from childhood to adult hood as this will in turn reduce the socio economic effects and the psychosocial burden that obesity or overweight will have in one's life in the later years (Langenberg et al., 2003).
Presenting the vision 2030
The Saudi Arabian government has put in place a number of policies that are geared towards the reduction of obesity (Amin, Al-Sultan and Ali,2008). In order for the programs and policies of combating obesity to work, they need to be focused on nutrition and encouragement of an active lifestyle. The programmes are also to empower women so as to make them make appropriate nutritional choices for their children and even for the entire family. The Saudi Arabian government should work together with the stakeholders, private health care providers, international agencies and the citizens in ensuring that the programs are a success. These policies are to be framed in line with the millennium development goals (MDGs).
Access to healthy food change in the country's nutritional as well as lifestyle habits Vito et al.,(2009).The fact hat food has become more affordable to a majority of the households as well as a substantial reduction in the prices in relation to the income has resulted in food becoming a source of pleasure and not a means of nourishment. This has been noted to be a major cause of childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia. Programmes should be put in place to target households and enable them to have access to healthy foods. The government for example should put strict regulations on the sale of junk foods. Investment on healthy food alternatives should be made. The government should encourage the growth of fruits and vegetables in all regions as well as encourage their consumption since they are linked to healthy nutritional outcomes.The Saudi Arabian government should therefore encourage the development and investment in farmer's market in order to increase the level of availability of both fruits and vegetables to the general population.
Equity sport between girls schools and boy
Gender equity should be encourage in Saudi Arabia.In regard to the prevalence of obesity, the government should allow girls just as boys are allowed to participate in equal physical activities in their schools…