English football, gambling new health risk among Kenya’s urban boys

By Gatonye Gathura

Watching too much of English Premier League and gambling, doctors warn are becoming a health risk to urban boys in Kenya.

Scientists at the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Kilifi say adolescents are spending too much time watching sports and gambling which is bad for their health.

In their findings published last month, the team says while football should provide health benefits to adolescents in form of physical exercise for many now it is the cause of sedentary life and possibly obesity.

The researchers specifically blame the highly popular almost year-long English Premier League (EPL) coupled with football gambling as an issue of health concern.

The study which was carried out in Kilifi County at the Coast the authors says reflect what is happening  with most urban boys across Kenya and in other parts of Africa.

Two studies led by Derrick Ssewanyana of Kemri say 14 years since the World Health Organisation endorsed a global strategy on diet and physical activity to protect adolescents from chronic diseases later in life, nothing much has happened.

The studies published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health say new threats have since emerged which including: mobile phones, gambling and boda bodas keep adolescents from active lives.

While general television viewership, videos and movies still remain top reasons for youth inactivity, gambling and football watching was recorded as a significant emerging threat.

Gambling, especially among young adults and rural primary and secondary students, the study respondents said took up adolescents’ time for physical activity, especially in the town centers.

Among the common gambling activities identified were sports betting and a form of casino described as portable small gambling machines increasingly common in the town centers.

The research had interrogated the lifestyles of adolescents aged 10-19 in Kilifi County.  The authors concluded that adolescents should be discouraged from sedentary lifestyles characterized by long-time sitting and chatting, watching sports games and movies.