Recently released statistics by the Israeli National Council for the Child reveal that children in the country are seeing the highest rates of various social problems in 30 years. Over one-third of children in Israel, the study reports, are affected by obesity and poverty. There were 2,626,400 children in Israel just last year. Of that number, 33.7 percent of those younger than high school age are living in poverty. Around 717,007, or 27.3 percent, are obese.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, a chairman of the council, at least attributes the rise in obesity to poor dietary practices. But he also blames a concurrent rise in the consistent use of social media sites. “[T]hey don’t eat fruits and vegetables and they don’t eat breakfast,” Kadman argues, “but they’re champions at watching television and surfing the Internet in all its forms.” The study shows that nearly 90 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 use social media consistently. In light of the high rates of impoverished children that were also revealed by the statistics, the fact remains that choices for recreational activities outside of social media are simply more expensive for children in poorer families.
The study, which was included in the newest edition of statistics collection “Children in Israel,” was shown to Israeli President Shimon Peres. Peres has said that it is “impossible to accept a situation” like this, and emphasizes the idea that “there must be real action to aid and strengthen children” in Israeli society. On a more positive note, the study does seem to suggest that improvements have been made in child and adolescent drug use, as well as general crime management. The use of drugs and alcohol among children and teens has dropped in recent years, in many cases by as much as half. Even amid the higher statistical incidence of child abuse cases that the study shows, the amount of police files opened during the previous decade have far surpassed the actual number of those cases. The amount of individuals being questioned in criminal cases has also notably increased. It is simply the increasing rates of obesity, poverty, and other problems that are causing so much concern, all of which are affecting more than a third of the children in Israel.
Israel, however, is not alone. Similar rates of obesity increases, for example, have been seen in the United States. The number of overweight Americans has increased steadily since 1980. In particular, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that obesity among children and adolescents between ages six and 19 has more than doubled since that time. Similarly to Israel, the obesity problem in America has sometimes been attributed to diets lacking in fruit and vegetables. Physical activity in general is viewed as an indispensable preventative measure.
It was only several weeks ago that the Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat introduced a legislative plan for consideration in which the government would invest 275 million shekels ($78.6 million) in an exercise-promoting initiative. According to Israel Hayom, the plan involves the propping up of new sports teams and allows funds to be allocated for various physical activities. About 50,000 young people are expected by the minister to participate if the program were to be put into place. This is just one of the measures that the government claims can help more than a third of children in Israel who are affected by problems like obesity and poverty.
Written by Chris Bacavis
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention