14 July 2010
By Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey
Schools On Alert As Junk Food, TV Addiction And Aversion To Outdoor Activities Lead To Rise In Cardiac Disorders Among Children
Last year, high schoolgirl Anjali Sharma (name changed) died while standing in the sun for a morning drill at a well–known school off AJC Bose Road. She simply fainted and her heart failed to revive. Later, it was reported that Anjali had a heart ailment and had undergone a surgery, but the school was not informed about it and hence she had not been exempted from outdoor activities.
A few days later, a boy in a neighbouring school developed serious breathing problems in class and was rushed to the infirmary and given oxygen. When he was able to talk again, he told the school that he had a heart ailment and had undergone an operation. The school was stunned because it was completely unaware of this and naturally hadn’t taken the steps required when you have someone with a heart condition on board.
Gorging on junk food, addiction to television and aversion to outdoor activities are the three major reasons why kids are developing these diseases, say doctors. City schools are on the alert now and after having done a preliminary assessment of children’s health, have found out that at least 20% kids are obese, have hypertension and have the potential to develop heart ailments, if they haven’t already. Such kids are being monitored constantly and there’s a constant dialogue with parents of such children.
From January 2011, St James School is about to introduce a health card for every child with the class teacher as the monitor. “Of the 2,000 children we have on the campus, at least 20% are obese and hypertensive. They get exhausted easily, are sloth and run out of breath at the slightest sign of physical movement. This is a cause of concern because these kids are potential heart patients. The health card that we will introduce will give periodic readings of kids’ weight, the results on an exercycle and blood pressure counts,” said principal T H Ireland.
Schools are keeping a tab on obese children’s tiffin boxes to ensure that they do not consume chips or oily food. School canteens are banned from stocking chips, aerated drinks and junk food. “Obesity is a problem and we do not want things to get out of hand, so all soft drinks and junk food are banned,” said Birla High School for Boys principal Mukta Nain.
Some schools have singled out kids with hypertension and those that are inching towards heart conditions and have prepared diet charts for them with the help of the school dietitian, which parents are being advised to follow. For the midday meal, such children are advised to either eat toast and a fruit or khichdi and curd. At Heritage School, where the children are given three meals because it follows a day boarding pattern, special diets are available for such kids. “While for other kids we allow aloo parathas or puris once in a while, it is a strict no–no for these special kids who are on toast, fruits, sugar free juices, porridge, etc,” said principal Seema Sapru. She points out that even 10 years ago, no one had thought that obesity, hypertension and most of all, heart diseases, would start stalking kids.
“I’ve taught in Delhi and can tell you that it is a metro disease because lack of exercise, a highstress lifestyle that is transferred from parents and gorging on junk food while watching television are some of the demons that are really leading kids on to the grip of these diseases,” explained Sapru.