Indonesia joins the growing list of countries fighting obesity
20 percent of youth are in danger of diabetes, high blood pressure, other issues
A population shift from country to city living has meant a major change in lifestyles for families in the Republic of Indonesia. It also means the country in Southeast Asia is now listed among the most obese in the world.
“Obesity and physical inactivity are considered a major global health and wellness problem,” said Jackie Goodway, associate professor of human sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology.
“And Indonesia has just become the 10th most obese country.”
Children and adolescents worldwide are less active and severely below the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous movement daily.
Even more worrying, indications are that Indonesian children are spending more and more time using computers and playing video games. They are at greater risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems. In addition, overweight children face social and behavioral issues as they grow.
“Childhood obesity and inactivity have only recently been identified as a problem in Indonesia, but data shows the prevalence has increased two-fold in a very short time,” Goodway said. By their 15th birthdays, 19 percent of the country’s youth are obese.
EHE leads team working with ministry to set policy
The Indonesian government is taking steps to stem the tide.
Goodway and Ruri Famelia, a doctoral student in physical education, have joined forces with Syahrial Bakhtiar and Yanuar Kiram at Padang State University in West Sumatra to advise the Ministry of Youth and Sport.
Bakhtiar, vice rector of student life at Padang, researches motor development and sport management. He was instrumental in convincing ministry officials of the importance of the team’s proposals.
“Indonesia doesn’t have national guidelines for physical activity,” Goodway said. These are vital to the country’s quick response before obesity levels rise even higher. It is the fourth most populous country in the world, and 43 million of its 252 million inhabitants are obese.
The Goodway team recommended developing a wellness-based physical education curriculum for schools. In addition, they would change physical education teacher training to focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle rather than elite sports.
In May 2014, the researchers trained early childhood teachers in SKIP (Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Preschoolers), a program Goodway created. It provides developmentally and culturally appropriate motor skill interventions.
They also educated sport coaches and special education teachers about physical activity for children with disabilities.
Proposal would aid children in U.S., U.K. and Indonesia
WHO recommends all governments establish systematic strategies. Goodway, Famelia and Bakhtiar have a vision for “Active Start,” a program for very young children that would be available in the United States and Great Britain, as well as Indonesia.
They are seeking funding for a project that would involve three partners: The Ohio State University, the Padang State University and the University of Wales Trinity St. David, where Goodway is a research fellow in the Wales Institute for Physical Literacy spearheaded by international expert Nalda Wainwright.
“The United States regularly is listed as the most obese country in the world, and the UK has one of the fastest-growing rates,” Goodway explained.
Based on decades of scholarship, the team will create and test a teaching model to be used in preschools and elementary schools in the three countries. The goal is to ensure children have opportunities through their schools, families or communities for play, games, sports and active transportation, such as walking and riding bikes; and recreation, physical education or planned exercise. The program can be adjusted so local communities can adapt it for their own situations.
The model will influence teacher education by adding physical literacy to curricula.
The College of Education and Human Ecology has long had an interest in teacher preparation in Indonesia through it leadership of USINTEC, the U.S and Indonesia Teacher Education Consortium of 15 institutions.
In October, Bakhtiar visited Ohio State’s Columbus campus with Faisal Abdullah, deputy minister of youth and sports, Republic of Indonesia. A week later, they were joined by Rector and Professor Yanuar Kiram of Padang State University and a number of vice presidents. The delegation cemented a partnership between Ohio State and their university.
During their site visit, they also led a discussion of the need to improve physical education teachers’ qualifications in their country, as well as the need to establish national physical activity guidelines for children.
“The ministry is really enthusiastic about the program,” Bakhtiar said. “I do hope this pioneering work will grow.”