The overweight and obese rate among children under five years old in Ho Chi Minh City has increased threefold over the past decade, posing major nutritional and health challenges to the southern city, heard a conference on child nutrition on August 1.

The event was attended by nearly 300 nutritional and paediatric experts from Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Canada.

Reports at the conference said there is a growing trend of obesity in children across Vietnam, particularly in big municipalities like HCM City.

The overweight and obese rate among under-five children in the city jumped from 3.7 percent in 2000 to 11.5 percent in 2013. Among school children, the rate also almost doubled from 11.6 percent in 2002 to 21.9 percent in 2009.

Experts attributed such nutritional disorders to an unbalanced diet which provides too much protein and fat but little minerals and vitamins. Added to that, children in city nowadays do not have many opportunities to get involved in physical activities.

Participants agreed that communication activities to raise public awareness about the issue are a key measure to address the problem. They also called for more investment in efforts to implement the school nutrition programme and the national nutrition strategy.

At the same time, it was reported that children’s malnutrition in HCM City has reduced significantly.

The underweight rate among children under five declined from nearly 50 percent in the early 90s to 4.1 percent in 2013, much lower than the national rate of 15.3 percent.

The rate of stunted growth also dropped from over 50 percent in 1990 to 6.7 percent last year – equivalent to the figure in developed countries, while the national rate was 25.9 percent.-VNA