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Mar 04
Obesity – The Silent Killer

By: Willemien Jansen (Copy and Content Editor)

https://www.hst.org.za/PublishingImages/Obesity%20%E2%80%93%20The%20Silent%20Killer.jpg

Very few people realise that we have a silent killer in our midst. It's not heart disease, cholesterol or HIV – it's obesity. That is why today we observe World Obesity Day

The World Obesity Federation in 2022 estimates that 800 million people world-wide are currently living with obesity. The number of children with obesity are estimated to increase by 60% over the next decade; a shocking figure of 250 million children by 2030. Those with obesity are also twice as likely to be hospitalised when testing positive with COVID-19.

These statistics are truly shocking, and deserve urgent attention. According to the United Nations, "World obesity day encourages practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, undertake proper treatment, and reverse the obesity crisis". iAfrica emphasizes that everyone needs to act to make healthier choices easier. They state that "[t]ackling obesity in South Africa is going to require a multi-dimensional approach involving many stakeholders including a number of government departments, the healthcare and education systems, and corporate and industry players." iAfrica further states that according to the National Department of Health, the prevention and management of obesity should not only be the responsibility of individual and health care workers, but also requires the transformation of our food systems to provide healthy food choices that are affordable, available and accessible to all South Africans.

South Africa currently rates 31 out of 191 countries, with an obesity rate of 28.3. Giving the large rates of poverty and malnutrition in South Africa, it is perplexing that, on the one hand, obesity is rising, while on the other hand, so is malnutrition. There are a number of theories to explain this, but the most basic theory looks at the access to nutrition and quality food. "The most food insecure, who are often the poorest, do not have sufficient access to quality food", according to The Conversation. Not surprisingly, South Africa is therefore burdened with double the problem of most other countries – hunger and obesity as a double malnutrition challenge.

The WHO pledges to "respond[ing] to the global obesity crisis on many fronts, including monitoring global trends and prevalence, the development of a broad range of guidance addressing the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity, and providing implementation support and guidance such as the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity."


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