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Are soft drinks to blame for Vietnam’s impending child obesity epidemic?

Recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc issued a directive to three ministries – health; education and training; and labor, war invalids and social affairs – to collaborate in future efforts to improve the stature and fitness of Vietnamese children, reports Vietnam Plus.

Specifically, Phuc highlighted the contrast between the rates of malnutrition among children in poor communities and the increase in obesity rates among urban children.

In order to tackle the latter, he asked the education ministry to ban sales of carbonated drinks and other harmful snacks in public schools. Moreover, the PM added that advertising materials for these products should also be prohibited on campuses.

Educators are also requested to find ways to raise awareness on healthy diets and exercise, such as improving the quality of school meals and encouraging children to drink more milk instead of fizzy beverages.

“The school and family should collaborate to provide guidance on nutrition and physical exercise that’s suitable for schoolchildren, especially those in pre-pubescent and pubescent age,” the directive states.

It’s still unclear if the fizzy drink ban will make its way into Vietnam’s legislation as the involved ministries still haven’t responded to PM Phuc’s instructions. However, this shows that Vietnam‘s authorities are finally paying more attention to the country’s younger generations.

In October, the National Institute of Nutrition shared at a conference that Vietnam’s child obesity problem has become alarming as it’s estimated that, as of 2015, up to 50% of children in Saigon and 40.7% of children in Hanoi are obese.

Nutrition experts blame poor diets and a lack of exercise for the increase in child obesity. On the other extreme, the institute also stated in a separate report that currently 1.9 million young children under five in Vietnam – mostly from poor communities and ethnic minorities – are malnourished because of improper health care.

[Photo via Caribbean 360]

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