Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Health (a) over the past five years, what is the annual prevalence of obesity for children aged below 18 years, with a breakdown by their (i) housing type and (ii) race; (b) how has the childhood obesity rate been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; and (c) what is the assessed effectiveness of measures to prevent and address childhood obesity.
Mr Ong Ye Kung: From 2017 to 2021, the proportion of students who were overweight (BMI-for-age at or above the 90th percentile1) in schools (primary, secondary and pre-university levels) had increased from 13% to 16%. The increase was mainly observed in the last two years. Due to COVID-19, opportunities for physical activities in schools had been impacted over the past two years. This might have led to a more sedentary lifestyle and contributed to the increase in obesity among students. More studies are needed to analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the prevalence of obesity among students by housing type and race.
We have undertaken various measures to prevent and address childhood obesity. We work with the Ministry of Education, Early Childhood Development Agency and pre-schools to provide school health promotion for students, parents, and staff. In schools and Institutes of Higher Learning, we provide healthier meals. HPB also supplements school-based efforts with community-based healthy eating and physical activity programmes. Secondary schools and the Institute of Technical Education also offer lifestyle coaching to severely overweight students. In 2021, 64% of the participants achieved BMI reduction of more than 0.5 points or reached their acceptable weight by the end of the six-month programme.
Ministry of Health
14 February 2022