Rise in obesity, vision-related issues in Indian schoolchildren, says study

Obesity, vision and dental issues are the major health problems faced by schoolgoing children in the age group 2 to 17 years across India, according to a report.

The report, “Enhancing the Effectiveness and Impact of Schools: Insights from School Health Screening Program”, released by Jarma Wellness, an organisation working in the area of healthcare consultation, assessed nearly two lakh children belonging to various socio-economic backgrounds from 20 cities.

Preventive healthcare

“Our health screening data shows a clear need for focussed effort to improve health of children and young people through preventive healthcare. A continued failure to act will have serious ramifications for the health of generations to come,” said Dr. Akshay Shah, co-founder, Jarma Wellness.

The report adds that hygiene is a major issue. According to the report, vision screening of 1,55,584 children shows that an overall of 39,674 (25.5%) of children have abnormal vision.

The number of children with uncorrected myopia/ hyperopia and wearing glasses touches nearly 50% in higher-secondary section, indicating that potentially one in every two children may need glasses.

Also, 30.4% of all students screened have been found to have abnormal BMI. Of this, 19.1% students have been found to be in the overweight and obese category. The report also shows a significant jump from 16% to 23% in the same category as the child moves from pre-primary to primary grades, and goes up to 26% in higher secondary.

“Based on assessment of various dental/oral health parameters — presence of cavities, plaque, tartar, gum inflammation, bleeding, oral hygiene and teeth alignment — the report observes that over 50% of all students screened were found to have dental issues and close to 27% of students have cavities. While alignment of teeth is more of a cosmetic issue, the other parameters point towards hygiene habits and brushing techniques. Interestingly, parental inaction is noticed most when it comes to their child’s dental health; not realising that if left untreated, deteriorating oral health can impact the quality of the child’s permanent set of teeth,’’ it said.

“In schools where screenings were done in previous years, the percentage of parents taking action was very high when compared to schools where screening happened for the first time, clearly showing that an aware parent will invest far more in preventive healthcare,’’ noted the report.