Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Reducing Overweight and Obesity among Elementary Students in Wuhan, China

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Reducing Overweight and Obesity among Elementary Students in Wuhan, China

Article excerpt


In China there is now evidence of increasing overweight and obesity among school-age youth in urban areas. Data from China's National Student Physical Examination Survey (NSPES) reported that among young people aged 7 to 18 years living in urban areas the obesity prevalence for boys increased from 4.0% in 1995 to 8.9% in 2000 and to 11.5% in 2002. For girls the rate increased from 3.5% to 5.6% to 7.7% in the same period. (1) Results from the National Student Health Survey (NSHS) conducted in 2000 and 2005 by the Ministry of Education indicated from 2000 to 2005 the proportion of overweight people ages 7-22 increased from 1.4% to 13.3% for males and from 0.7% to 8.7% for females. The proportion of obese males increased from 2.7% to 11.4%, and the proportion of obese females grew from 0.9% to 4.6%. (2)

Data from provincial surveys also suggested this trend and showed overweight and obesity were more pronounced in certain areas. In Shandong province the percentage of overweight urban boys increased from 3.1% in 1985 to 17.5% in 2005. For girls the increase was from 2.7% to 10.6%. For students classified as obese the percentages rose from 0.5% for boys in 1985 to 14.5% in 2005 and for girls from 0.4% to 6.8%. In rural areas the pattern is similar but lags behind urban areas. In rural Shandong the percentage of overweight boys increased from 0.7% in 1985 to 11.1% in 2005 and for rural girls from 1.5% to 7.0%. The percent of obese boys increased from 0.0% in 1985 to 7.1% in 2005 and for girls from 0.1% to 4.7%. (3)

Data from Shenzhen, a special economic zone adjacent to Hong Kong, indicated that 19% of boys and 11% girls were overweight and/or obese with prevalence peaking at age 11 for boys and age 10-11 for girls. (4)

Ji and Cheng tracked changes in the prevalence of child and adolescent overweight and obesity between 1985 and 2005 using data from the Chinese National Survey on Student Constitution and Health. They noted significant geographic variations based on economic development. Northern coastal residents, especially those in the upper socioeconomic status, had the earliest onset of overweight and obesity and showed the largest percent increases. They were followed successively by residents in other urban regions of moderate and low socioeconomic status and finally the affluent rural regions. No changes were found in the developing rural areas. (5)

In Beijing, an affluent city, 38.5% of the boys were overweight or obese compared to 24.6% in China's urban populations as a whole; 19.8% of females in Beijing were overweight or obese compared to 9.6% in the country as a whole. (2)

As Ji and Cheng pointed out, rural areas lagged behind urban areas in terms of economic development and in the proportion of young people who were overweight and obese. However, in the last several years government policies directed at rural economic development increased rural family incomes and may also have had the effect of increasing rural child and adolescent obesity. Du, et al., found that increased income among the poor was associated with a dietary change from high carbohydrate foods to high-fat, high energy dense foods.6 The National Student Health Survey 2005 indicated that among rural males ages 7-22 the overweight proportion increased from 1.8% to 8.2% from 2000 to 2005; among rural females it grew from 1.2% to 4.6%. The proportion of obese rural males increased from 1.8% to 5.1%; among females obesity increased from 0.4% to 2.6%. The problem of overweight and obesity differs between males and females, urban and rural populations, and between specific areas compared to China as a whole, but the trend in all cases is increasing overweight and obesity among young people. (2)

Several reasons can be suggested for this trend. China's one child policy means two parents and four grandparents can dote on their child, with no competition from brothers and sisters or cousins. …

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