Did you know that at least 2 out of every 5 adults (over 2 billion people) and 1 out of every 5 children aged 5–19 were overweight in 2016?
Hold that thought for a while!
Here’s the interesting part: contrary to what many people think, obesity is not a problem reserved for wealthy countries or people - far from it! 75% of the world’s over 2 billion obese live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Photo credit: World Bank
Obesity is a health condition identified with people who consume too much food and expend too little energy, which results in the accumulation of excess body fat. Using the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) cutoffs, these are individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Being overweight or obese has huge implications both at the micro (individual) and macro-economic (national) levels. A recent World Bank report on “Obesity: Health and Economic Consequences of an Impending Global Challenge” highlight the potential dangers of obesity based on current trends and how it can be addressed.
Presently, obesity-related diseases such as type 2-diabetes, coronary heart disease, asthma, stroke, etc. are among the top 3 causes of death worldwide, except Sub-Saharan Africa. But the major concern is that obesity has devastating effects at national level: It leads to reduced work productivity, increased disability, reduced life expectancy, and increased health care costs. For instance, China’s health care costs associated with obesity increased from 0.56% to 3.13% between 2000 and 2009.
The shocker: The World Bank report shows that over 55% of the global rise in obesity occurred in rural areas, especially in South East Asia, Latin America, Central Asia, and North Africa. Why? As poor people’s income minimally increase due to national economic growth, obesity problem shifts to them.
While African countries are not experiencing as much obesity as Asian and Latin American countries, there is need to start implementing measures to reduce obesity epidemic in the region.
Below are some useful recommendations detailed in the report:
· LMICs will need to eliminate or reduce subsidy on ultra-processed and sweetened foods [one of the major causes of obesity] in order to discourage consumption.
· Government needs to encourage research studies specifically on efficient production, storage and distribution of farm produce such as legumes, fruits, vegetables etc to promote access to these healthier options at cheaper prices.
· Furthermore, food and drug regulatory bodies need to enforce front package labeling on all processed food items so that people can make informed decisions based on the attached nutritional information.
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Article Credit: Michael Adesanya