Parents are being encouraged to curb the time their children spend on electronic devices. This is the advice Dr Joanne Paul, head of the paediatric emergency department, Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, and registrar, Dr Rabia Hydal-Mohammed, gave to parents yesterday at the Child Wellness Initiative. The event was hosted by the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) the Women's Centre, Mt Hope Women's Hospital.
Both doctors said they had recently seen cases of children with pain in their fingers, wrists and even their necks, which could be attributed to overuse and exertion of muscles in those areas.
While, they did not elaborate on the number of cases, Hydal-Mohammed, did offer guidelines to parents.
Children up to age two, she said, ought not to be allowed to use devices, while the two to five age group should spend no more than one hour per day using computers for recreational use. Children five years and older, she added, could be allowed up to two hours per day.
Paul also cautioned parents to be mindful that the pleasure derived from constant use of computer devices produces dopamine, which leaves users vulnerable to becoming addicted. Hydal-Mohammed advised the pubic not to charge their devices close to where they sleep, neither keep them under their pillows. She further cautioned that users switch off their devices periodically and manage their use, so that they do not get caught up in the "power of the ping".
In a dramatic gesture, the doctors, joined hands with Dr Abdul Hamid, general manager of the NCRHA and made a public call for parents to join with them to prevent, rather than cure chronic and lifestyle diseases.
They stressed the need for parents to shift their focus towards ensuring their children lead proactive, healthier lives. Child obesity, they said, has been on the rise in TT, due to bad eating habits and acute inactive lifestyles.
There has also been an increase in mental illnesses, leading to depression in children and youths.
"Play, exercise and eat healthy. Don't wait till they get sick, its about doing check ups at least once per year and maintaining it with proper health practices and hygiene," advised the doctor.
The NCRHA has been offering scheduled one-day services to the public focused on women and men's physical and mental health for the past three years.
Hamid said the exercises were all part of the NCRHA's drive to promote its outreach programmes. He said while they had initially targeted adults, they were now shifting their focus on children.
He added that in some cases non-communicable diseases can go undetected and untreated in children, who as adults develop diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. In some instances, he added, the schooling of children diagnosed with ailments is adversely interrupted.
Hamid assured that the health authority is prepared to conduct follow-up, "fast tracked" sessions for children diagnosed with any major illnesses. Some cases will also be referred to the relevant clinics or units.
NCRHA CEO Davlin Thomas said the authority's previous initiatives targeting adults were successful and they were now looking to promote preventative measures. Screening in children, he said, can be used as a vital tool in engaging NCDs at a younger age, to stem the increase adult cases in the future.
He also spoke about the establishment of obesity clinics in communities to address the issue of early onset diabetes.
NCRHA chairman Steve Delas and its vice chairman, Elvin Edwards, both commended the staff for their unending commitment whenever called on.