Obesity among schoolchildren in Qatar

Addressing Chronic Obesity in Qatar

a.     Executive Summary

Childhood obesity remains the major pandemic that was brought to the attention of the committee and following the in-depth discussion that was carried out on April 30, 2017 with the relevant stakeholders. The aim of the committee was to discuss the rising levels of childhood obesity in Qatar with the objective of the paper is finding a solution to the rising pandemic.

b.    Introduction

As a committee, we suggested that new intervention policy curbs the issue of obesity and bring down the prevalence rates (WHO 9). A long discussion was held to evaluate the effectiveness of the different policies that are in place with the objective of finding the shortcomings. The recently launched World Health Organization (WHO) school policy on diet and physical activity has not been successful in addressing the issue in totality. The technical team on nutrition joined in the discussion, and it was resolved that white paper should be developed to include:

  1. The steps to promote healthy eating and exercising among school children;
  2. Propose the diet schedule for schools to adopt in their feeding program;
  3. Propose a health is living campaign strategy for the new school policy on diet and physical activity to achieve the desired objectives.

c.     Target Audience

The target audience for this policy paper is the schools, health facilities. and the responsible ministries within Qatar. The paper provides a guideline on how the issue of obesity should be handled in the country to realize the positive outcomes.

d.    Intended Use

The policy paper in intended for use by the target audience for purposes of implementing successful obesity management programs in schools. The initiative should be utilized as a guide to help the school develop policies that can assist in addressing the main challenge of obesity in Qatar.

e.     Background and the Need for a New School Policy

Unhealthy Eating Habits Contribute to High Rates of Obesity

  • School children in Qatar have formed the habit of eating fast food at least once or twice in a week, and about 90% of the children reported consuming unhealthy snacks between means and the practice was growing to a habit (Al Khalif et al. 24).
  • Increased urbanization has been attributed to lifestyle change, and the rate of technology advancement is causing children to reduce on doing physical activity and preferring playing video games. The sedentary lifestyles have increased the prevalence of obesity among youngsters.
  • Culturally, it is admissible for the children to be plump in the Middle East because it is seen as a sign or director of wealth, and it explains why more kids are becoming obese and overweight.
  • Research shows that children or adolescents whose are obese are more likely to be obese during their adulthood showing the chronic nature of the condition.
  • It has been established that obesity has an impact on the physical and psychosocial health of the children, and it has been associated with other chronic lifestyle diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
  • Chronic hypertension has been associated with the high morbidity and mortality rates observed in Qatar.

Healthy Eating and Physical Exercise Policies

  • The populations in Qatar are suffering from being overweight and obese that is contributing to the high levels of diabetes, and the main reason has been the unhealthy eating habits. The rates of prevalence to obesity in the major cities of the country is growing steadily partly because of the increasing popularity of the fast food restaurants that serve fat laden sugary foods, and it combined with the limited physical activity is contributing to the high rates of obesity observed in Qatar (Janssen).
  • The economic development in the region has contributed to high per capita income, and the households have more disposable income that they can spare. The increased income has contributed to families purchasing unhealthy foods in the name of showing the status quo, and it is what is costing the country billions of dollars in management.
  • The policy framework for to address the issue of obesity in Qatar has been dominated with sporadic and isolated interventions that are not coherent and strategic in their approach, and it explains the inefficiency. The current policies have not focused on the addressing the root cause of the problem that is the issue of nutrition (Amal 4). The poor nutritional habits remain the main cause of obesity cases in Qatar; until addressed, the problem will be persistent.
  • In the formulation of the lifestyle change policies, limited attention has been directed towards investing or raising awareness about obesity as a grave condition and the policy makers need to address the current shortfalls so as to address the challenges associated with the disease comprehensively.
  • The policy makers have the opportunity to combat the condition through implementing strong policy options that can tackle the issue of obesity head on. The approach includes the inclusion of the nutrition departments and health department.

f.      Prevalence of Obesity Nationally and among School Children in Qatar

  • Cluster studies evaluating the level of prevalence among primary school going children aged 6-18 years using the BMI as it has indeed revealed that more children in Qatar were more predisposed to being either underweight or overweight.
  • The prevalence rate of obesity among the children at BMI 85-95% revealed 11.6% likelihood. The level of prevalence differed significantly among the boys and girls, and it was evident that a higher number of girls were more likely to be obese than girls.
  • The prevalence of obesity among boys was at 21.95%, while for the girls, it was 16.56% that was significantly high (Mandeya and Kridli 6).
  • The waist circumference of the affected children was significantly high with triglyceride levels being higher among the obese youngsters that the children who were not obese.
  • The study revealed that children who were overweight were more exposed to cardiovascular disease because of the high waist diameter and high cholesterol levels and the generally low HDL levels.

g.     Promoting Physical Health in Schools

The rates of obesity are increasing steadily in government schools, and the increasing trend has persisted for some time now. Promoting physical health is schools are necessary to curb the issue of overweight by educating and creating awareness on obesity in the gulf region. It has grown in magnitude in the Middle East, but unfortunately, most parents confuse it with the normal development process of the child (Chang and Heather 12). The policy makers need to respond decisively to the need to handle the issue of obesity as urgent and put measures in place to address the challenges involved. Promoting physical health should be the responsibility of every primary school in Qatar. The current curriculum needs to consider the need for physical education and integrate it in the training process.

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h.    Describing the Health Eating Policy Changes at Community Level

The Qatar community has always experienced challenges with the issue of healthy eating, and the increasing economic development is the major factor that is contributing to the unhealthy eating habits. Children have more access to soft drinks dispensers and fast food outlets, and the rapid westernization is having a negative impact on the levels of obesity within the community (Government of Canada 24). In the Qatar region, having a heavy body is not always viewed as a problem, but rather, it is an indicator of the social standing of the family. When formulating intervention policies, it is necessary to consider the social and cultural aspects of the intervention strategies. The community reports the following:

  • First, most primary school schools need to take the issue of obesity seriously.
  • Schools have to develop strong policies that can prohibit the presence of the fast food outlet or the unhealthy beverage dispensers that are contributing to the pandemic.
  • Primary schools should work tirelessly towards comprehensive physical education that the individuals have to commit to.

Nationally, the rates of obesity among students and adolescents are increasing and, despite the relative campaigns against unhealthy eating habits, still remain a major challenge. It is coupled with the sedentary lifestyle that most of the children are living, and this aspect prompts on the need of behavioral and lifestyle change (Wintz and Handzo 188). Nationally, the computer games and watching of television have been defined as the major and dominant activities that the group is engaging in during leisure time.

i.      Lessons That Can Be Learned from the Successful Countries

Qatar community is concerned about the ability to change the trend of obesity in the country and reduce the number of students experiencing or predisposed to obesity. Schools across the world have successfully adopted healthy eating and here are some of the conclusions that were made from the gathered information from the schools.

  • First, schools are designing meal plans for their students and health food has been availed in the canteens and other food outlets within the school. It is clearly targeted at reducing the rates of unhealthy snack intake in between meals.
  • Schools have formulated policies that prohibit the presence of fast food outlets and beverage dispensers within the school premises. The initiatives are likely to contribute to 60% reduction in fast food intake among students, and it will decrease the rates of obesity (Chang and Heather 15).
  • Parents need to take the active role of helping their children adopt a positive and more active lifestyle that can encourage physical activity. Encouraging the student to become more physically active to ensure that the rate of sedentary lifestyle is limited.
  • Some schools even introduced subsidized healthy eating outlets that distributed and sold health food to the young children. The students were more encouraged to select healthier foods based on the high prices of fast foods and the policy have been used to tackle obesity in the U.S.

j.      Supporting Lifestyle Change in Schools

There are many individual groups and organizations like the WHO that are trying to advocate for healthy eating policies in order to reduce the incidences of obesity. In most of the schools, the issue of obesity has been an issue of research interest for a long time, and many primary schools have signed the agreement on the need for a successful, healthy eating program for schools (Thompson and Smolak 22). The recent student reaction to the Policy on Diet and physical activity elicited different reactions from the individuals. Clearly, maintaining a healthy population will mean looking deeper into the issues of healthy eating.

k.    Why the Schools Need to Fight Obesity Actively

Improve the Health Status of Qatar

The presences of oil and gas have enriched Qatar with enough resources to improve the economy, but the development is what is contributing to obesity. According to the comparative prevalence, about 30% of the individuals in Qatar were managing obesity (WHO 15). The high prevalence rates of obesity in the Gulf region are partly attributed to the lack of a proper health promotion strategy that can improve the livelihoods of the people. Fighting of obesity in schools will limit the number of people suffering from the condition. Fighting obesity will improve the overall health of the population from other chronic disease associated with obesity like cardiovascular disease (Amal 123). Promoting the fight against obesity will lead to improvement of fitness in the population. The issue of obesity is robbing away the country of the fit individuals who can join in the military forces of the country. The number of individuals reaching the military age in Qatar is increasing, but unfortunately, this number does not make it to the military, because they are, in most cases, overweight.

l.      Recommendations

The schools in Qatar have a critical role to play in improving the physical and dietary behaviors of the students, and it should be mandatory for the schools to create a supportive environment that can promote healthy eating habits among the students. For example, we could recommend a policy framework that could provide the student with the opportunity to learn about what the best food is and how the students can adopt the health habits. Some of the recommendations are as follows:

  • The schools should ordinate all the activities of meal provision within the school through the office of the health coordinator.
  • The school should regularly assess the physical activity policies and details within the school and interprets them accordingly.
  • The management needs to develop a strategic approach that can help in monitoring of the eating habits of some foods.
  • Finally, the school should consider banning the use of some food within the school environment.

The school needs to coordinate its activities and streamline then with the non-governmental bodies, and it can be helpful in managing the effectiveness of the strategy. Creation of child wellness center can be helpful in ensuring that the youngster is healthy and that all the food and food services within the school meet the requirements of healthy eating. It is necessary to schedule the timetable in a way that allows the students take a frequent recess which can give the children the opportunity to engage in physical activity.

m.   Implementation Plan

The implementation plan for the policy will be 2 years, and the process will be gradual to ensure that all the details of the plan are handled.


Works Cited

Al Khalaf, F. A., et al. “Prevalence of Underweight, Overweight and Obesity among Primary School Children in Qatar.” Qatar Medical Journal, vol. 21, no. 1, 2012, pp. 23-26.

Amal, Essa. Preventing Obesity in School Children in the State of Qatar. 2010. University of Birmingham, PhD dissertation.

Chang, SeoHee and Gibson Heather. “The Relationship between Four Concepts (Involvement, Commitment, Loyalty, and Habit) and Consistency in Behavior across Leisure and Tourism.” Tourism Management Perspectives, vol. 13, 2015, pp. 41-50.

Government of Canada. “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Nurses in Primary Care.” 2015, https://www.canada.ca/en/indigenous-services-canada/services/first-nations-inuit-health/health-care-services/nursing/clinical-practice-guidelines-nurses-primary-care.html. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Janssen. “Diabetes in the Gulf the Policy Challenge.” The Economist, 2015, https://eiuperspectives.economist.com/healthcare/diabetes-gulf-policy-challenge. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Mandeya, Josephine, and Suha Al-Oballi Kridli. “Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Qatar: A Literature Review.” Avicenna, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1-12.

Thompson, Kevin J., and Linda Smolak. Body Image, Eating Disorders and Obesity in Youth: Assessment, Prevention, and Treatment (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association, 2001.

Wintz, Susan K., and George Handzo. Handbook of Patients Spiritual and Cultural Values for Healthcare Professionals. Healthcare Chaplaincy Network, 2013.

World Health Organization (WHO). A Practical Guide to Developing and Implementing School Policy on Diet and Physical Activity. Author, 2010.