OBESITY and other weight problems were one of the major issues tackled by the more than 4,000 delegates to the recently-concluded annual convention of the Philippine Pediatric Society at the Philippine Convention Center.

The 2013 national nutrition survey of the Food and Nutrition and Research Institute shows the number of obese Filipinos rose from 14.5 in 1993 to 32% in 2013. From these figures, this means three out of 10 Filipinos are obese.

The National Nutrition Council has expressed alarm over the merging problem of overweight and obese children saying this will result in a generation of unhealthy Filipinos. Pediatricians and social workers are unanimous in saying that unhealthy diet – fast foods – and sedentary lifestyles are causing many children to be overweight and obese.

While it is a reality that malnutrition especially stunting and wasting is still a big problem in the Philippines, obesity is also emerging as an alarming health concern.

Aside from the so-called "yummy fast foods or processed foods" preferred by the youth- high in salt, sugar and fat- sedentary lifestyle is also a big contributing factor. Almost all children now have some form of gadget, to which they are somewhat addicted to, meaning that they spend almost all their waking hours playing or manipulating them in the comfort of their rooms or slouched comfortably in their sofa. Parents lament about their kids sitting in front of their computers with their eyes glued to the screen, answering questions from them in monosyllables.

Lolos and lolas talk about good old days when their favorite game was patintero, tumbang preso, taguan, chateau-outdoor games which require kids to run around and sweat out that fat.

Recently, some sociologists have pointed out the role of schools in contributing to the burgeoning weight problems of children. Your columnist went to public schools where at the end of the day, assigned pupils will scrub the floor, wipe the desks, clean the toilets and make the classroom spic and span for the next day. Somehow these activities burned some of those unwanted fats.

Unfortunately, some parents, even arrogantly proclaim to all and sundry that their children are in school, to learn and not to do menial physical chores. And even quick to add, with more conceit and pride, that after all, they pay enough money not only for the tuition fee of their beloved - and if we may add, spoiled kid- to pay for the janitors.

In fairness, the government as well as NGOs have been pursuing and promoting programs to promote the consumption of balanced diets, especially of the so-called "go, grow and glow foods" which include rice, breads and noodles , meat, fish beans as well as fruits and vegetables. The picture of a plate, divided into portions of carbohydrates, proteins and fruits as veggies also serve as an invitation to eat healthy.

Starting them early is emphasized during the conference. Pediatricians are pushing for the exclusive breast feeding for babies especially on the first six months to lower the risk of future overweight or obese children. Ensuring optimal nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child is crucial in determining the over-all health status of the baby into adulthood. Otherwise, poor nutrition, even if the child survives it, will leave a mark on the child that is permanent and irreversible, with physical, cognitive or intellectual and behavioral abnormalities.

Needless to say, obesity is a form of malnutrition!