Non-Communicable Diseases: Obesity in Developing Countries
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In the late 1900s, health organizations focused on malnutrition, hunger, and the lack of food for people in developing nations. However, there has recently arisen a reverse problem. More 2.1 billion people are overweight. Obesity is a rising problem around the world and is proliferating at alarming speeds in some developing countries. Many of us associate obesity with affluent developed nations, but that is not the case. According to a study published by a UK think tank, the number of obese people in developing countries nearly quadrupled from 250 million to 904 million between 1980 and 2009. By 2008, more people were overweight and obese in developing countries (904 million), than in richer countries (557 million).
Why is the prevalence of obesity intensifying in developing nations?
Obesity is largely caused by a high-fat, high-sugar diet combined with low physical activity. Specific causes of obesity are widespread and varied, and include both environmental and genetic factors. Urbanization in developing countries is a possible underlying cause- as people move towards cities, their physical activity often decreases and their lifestyle changes, which can lead to obesity. People living in rural areas are often more self-reliant in getting food, and eat traditional diets that are higher in grains, fruit and vegetable. When people move to the city, they often adopt more sedentary work. This can lead to significant weight gain. In some countries, lack of knowledge about diets and exercise means that people unknowingly eat unhealthy foods in excess.
Why is obesity in developing countries a pressing issue?
Obesity combined with unhealthy eating habits can lead to a higher risk of many health problems, such as some cancers, gallstones, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and a stroke, to name a few. Aside from the threat to the individual health, obesity is especially dangerous in developing countries, as developing countries often lack the proper healthcare system and medical capacity to treat those affected by obesity. Obesity can cause a massive burden on a developing medical care system. From an economic standpoint, obesity can also reduce the productivity of a nation, leading to reduce economic development.
What should be done?
The issue of obesity in both developing and developed countries is a difficult one to solve. Government subsidies on food items such as vegetables and fruits could potentially promote healthy eating. Another solution could be to raise public awareness of healthy lifestyles.
As more countries develop, obesity becomes an increasingly
worrying problem. What are your thoughts on obesity in developing
countries? How would you reduce obesity?