While as many as 2.2 million children nationwide suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition, the childhood obesity rate in Ho Chi Minh City has risen by three times since 2000.
These striking figures were announced at a conference on children’s nutrition jointly held in the city by the HCMC Nutrition Association and the municipal Nutrition Center on Friday.
Dr. Do Thi Ngoc Diep, director of the center, said that the rate of obese children under age five in the city has increased three times from 3.7 percent in 2000 to 11.5 percent in 2013.
At a conference held in the city last year, medical experts said almost 30 percent of obese Vietnamese children under age five live in the five major cities of Vietnam: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong City, Da Nang City and Can Tho City.
Vietnam had a total of about 300,000 overweight kids in 2013, they said.
Experts warned that along with the obesity rate among children increasing every year, health risks like diabetes and cardiovascular and blood pressure problems are also on the rise.
Among 20 countries with the highest rates of malnourished children
Meanwhile, with 2.2 million children suffering from stunted growth, Vietnam is now among the top 20 countries with the highest rates of stunted growth because of malnutrition, Dr. Le Thi Hop, president of the Vietnam Nutrition Association, said.
These children account for 31.4 percent of the total child population of 7 million of Vietnam, Dr. Hop said.
According to an inquiry in 2012, of the total number of children under age five, 17.5 percent were underweight and 29.3 percent were stunted due to malnutrition.
Last year, the rate of stunted children reduced to 25.9 percent, still a high rate, Dr. Hop said.
Currently, Kon Tum and Lao Cai lead the country in stunted children, with a rate of as high as 40 percent, she said.
“Studies show that stunted growth in 3-year-old children will affect their ultimate height,” she said.
On average, children with good nutrition will have a height of 1.71 meters, while malnourished children have a lower height of 1.6 meters and under, the doctor warned.
Therefore, the nutrition of the country’s children must be paid due attention, especially in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, she said.
Active and effective intervention in this period will significantly contribute to the development of both the height and mental development of children, she added.