Combating the Rise in Childhood Obesity Cases

by Our Neighbourhood
Combating the Rise in Childhood Obesity Cases

Dr Yvonne Lim, Senior Consultant from the National University Centre for Women and Children (NUWoC) Children’s Clinic at Ng Teng Fong Hospital, shares insights on the causes behind the prevalence of childhood obesity, as well as ways parents can employ to mitigate this.

1. What is the prevalence of childhood obesity in Singapore, and what are some possible reasons?

These are the statistics from the Health Promotion Board for children studying in primary school to pre-U. Over the decade or so, the prevalence continued to trend upwards despite efforts from schools and the government. There are many possible reasons. Simply put, it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors (sedentary lifestyle, consumption of energy-dense and nutrient-poor food and beverages, increased screen time and less sleep).

2. How is childhood obesity diagnosed?

Obesity is currently being defined using the body mass index (BMI). In children, obesity is present when the BMI-for-age is ≥ 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex, and the child is overweight when the BMI-for-age is from the 85th to 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. The BMI is calculated using the formula below:

BMI = weight (kg) ÷ [height (m)]²

BMI is easily obtained as one would just need to obtain the height and weight to get it. Hence, it is a useful tool to identify people who are overweight and obese. However, there are limitations. Firstly, it cannot differentiate between excessive adiposity, heavy bones or increased lean muscle mass. Secondly, a local study showed that Singapore Chinese adolescents had a higher percentage fat at the same BMI than do a Dutch comparison group.

3. What are some of the consequences of childhood obesity?

Obesity is associated with multiple complications. The table below summarises the complications seen in children. Also, childhood obesity increases the risk of adult obesity, and that brings with it another long list of complications. For one, adult obesity is associated with 13 types of cancer!

RespiratoryObstructive sleep apnoea
EndocrinePolycystic ovarian syndrome
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Gastrointestinal/LiverNon-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Gastroesophageal reflux
OrthopaedicSlipped capital femoral epiphysis
Blount Disease
Back, foot, knee and hip pain
Eating disorder

4. When is it necessary to see a doctor, and what are some potential treatment options?

Parents can consider bringing the child for an assessment if the weight continues to increase with or without a change in lifestyle. In a small percentage of children, obesity is caused by underlying medical conditions such as endocrine disorders (including hypothyroidism, growth hormone deficiency and Cushing syndrome), and genetic conditions like specific syndromes and single gene defects. Children with a pathological cause of obesity are often short and fat. These kids should also be assessed. Some potential treatment include a structured weight management programme or medications.

5. What are some lifestyle changes that parents can adopt for their children to prevent childhood obesity?

Let’s combat obesity in kids!

It is essential for parents to bring their children to playgrounds and fitness corners. These communal spaces offer a fun and engaging environment for children to engage in physical activity, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being. Jurong-Clementi Town Council has recently built new fitness corners and playgrounds for our residents, with some still in-progress.

Check out the new spaces below:


  • Playground, Block 297 Bukit Batok Street 22
  • Fitness Corner, Block 192 Bukit Batok West Avenue 6
  • Playground, Between Block 240 and 241 Bukit Batok East Avenue 5
  • Fitness Corner, Block 309 Jurong East Street 32

Upgrading Works In-Progress:

  • Playground and Fitness Corner, Outdoor area near Block 327 Jurong East Street 31
  • Playground and Fitness Corner, Sports-In-Precinct near Block 209,211 and 212
  • Playground, Between Block 470 and 472 Jurong West Street 41
  • 2 types of Elderly Fitness Corners, Between Block 469 and 471 Jurong West Street 41
  • Fitness Corner, Block 440 Clementi Avenue 3
  • Multi-generation Fitness Corner, Near Block 120 Ho Ching Road
  • Playground and Fitness Corner with Recreation Zone & Children Play Area, Near Block 331 / 336 Jurong East Avenue 1
  • Elevated Fitness Platform, Near Block 332 Jurong East Avenue 1