Mrs. Zhanar Tolysbayeva is a PhD in medicine (hygiene). Her PhD thesis was devoted to mass prevention of iodine deficiency among children living in the areas with iodine deficiency. Mrs. Tolysbayeva has worked at the Kazakh Academy of Nutrition as a senior researcher for a number of years, and has carried out investigations of food and behavioral factors contributing to childhood obesity, as part of a program of prevention of pediatric obesity in school-age children in Kazakhstan. Mrs. Tolysbayeva’s interests cover popularization of healthy nutrition and elaboration of effective strategies for the promotion of healthy nutrition choices.
Significant contributors to obesity are sedentary lifestyle and overeating conditioned by eating habits and psychological problems. To identify the prevalence behavioral risk factors for obesity in children of school age in Kazakhstan 1,400 schoolchildren aged 11-18 years representing five oblasts and two large cities (Almaty, Astana) were interviewed. The proportion of children who spend two or more hours every day in front of a TV and/or gaming on a computer/tablet/ smartphone was higher in the older age group (14-18 years) than the group aged 11-13, at 65.9 percent and 54.9 percent, respectively. Older pupils spend more time gaming rather than watching TV (59.3 percent and 46.3 percent, respectively). When asked if they eat while watching TV/smartphone/computer etc., 46 percent of interviewed children answered positively. “Anxiety eating” after an argument with friends, a poor grade at school, or a failure at an activity, is a rather common occurrence among schoolchildren. Almost one in every three kids (28.7 percent) has admitted to eating “out of anxiety,” and this proportion increases with age. Approximately a third (29 percent) of the interviewed children have experienced a desire to “eat away” loneliness/boredom, and again, this proportion increases along with age. Therefore, the bad habits associated with eating behavior and sedentary lifestyle seem to be forming in early childhood. In this regard, in order to prevent childhood obesity attention must be paid to the children’s eating behavior and how they spend leisure time starting at an early age, so that corrective measures can be taken in a timely fashion.