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Health chief's 2019 target: less fat, more growth in children

Jan 16. 2019
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By THE NATION

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THE DEPARTMENT of Health has set new targets for 2019, following evidence that an increasing number of Thai children are reported to be overweight and too short for their age.

The department aims to boost the percentage of six to 14-year-olds with a healthy weight and height to 68 per cent in 2019, said Department of Health Director-General Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn. 

According to Panpimol, 10.6 per cent of under-fives are considered too short for their age while 9.1 per cent are overweight. 

Of six to 14-year-olds, 10.6 per cent are too short while 13.1 per cent struggle with obesity, she added. 

To achieve the target, the department will be promoting child growth and development through “the first 1,000 days of life”, said Department of Health deputy director-general Dr Amporn Benjaponpitak. 

The scheme aims to promote children’s development and well-being until their second birthday through better post-natal care, nutrition and proper parenting skills. 

Panpimol also added that the new target was part of the Public Health Ministry’s policy to promote healthier bodies and higher intelligence among children, she said. 

One of the Public Health Ministry’s targets included increasing the average IQ scores for Thai children to above 100 from 98.2 in 2016.

Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, meanwhile, said that he had instructed the Department of Mental Health to join with the Department of Heath and select provinces with the highest numbers of low IQ, overweight and too-short children to conduct research for an IQ-boosting pilot project. If it is successful it could be expanded to cover other areas across the country. 

Piyasakol said that if the model area was successful in 2-3 years, it would be a turning point for the development of Thai children, whose average IQ score has been under 100 for the past decade.

Mental Health Department director-general Dr Kiatipumi Wongrajit aims to implement a so-called CPR (Creation, Positive, Response to Society) plan in Thai children and youth development. He said there were several factors that contributed to children’s low IQ scores and development that had not been solved, such as the issue of game addiction, which wasted away a large amount of time the kids should have spent on other development-boosting activities. 

He said his agency and the Department of Health would work together to boost child development among those aged 0-6. “If we don’t do anything about it, we don’t know what the future of Thailand in next two decades will be like,” he added.

Department of Mental Health deputy director-general Dr Pongkasem Khaimuk cited a 2018 report that there were 13,201 children aged 0-6 who were developing too slowly. Therefore, he said the department would increase the number of nurses specialising in child and adolescent mental health in all community hospitals while also creating a child development promotion network among tambon-level health promotion hospitals and apply the National Standard for Early Childhood Care. 

He also said that the average IQ score among Thai teens was 94.73, the average EQ score was around 70 per cent, while the pregnancy rate among girls aged 15-19 was at 39.6 per 1,000 population. 

He said the department would this year implement measures to boost the quality of student care and promote life skills in Thai teens.

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