Obesity related diseases among top 3 killers globally

Obesity among humans is on a raising age with study revealing that it's not only a developed countries ridden epidemic

Obesity is one of the most known risk factors for non-communicable diseases and a disease in itself. A new World Bank report says.

According to the World Bank, overweight and obesity are an impending global challenge, especially for poor people and those who live in low- or middle-income countries, dispelling the myth that it is a problem only in high-income countries and urban areas.

Recent data shows that since 1975, obesity has nearly tripled and it now accounts for 4 million deaths worldwide every year. In 2016, over 2 billion adults (44 percent) were overweight or obese, and more than 70 percent of these lived in low- or middle-income countries.

What are the causes of obesity?

The factors fueling the obesity epidemic are largely caused by behaviours and the environments we live in.

These include: easier access to ultra-processed and sugary foods; a decline in physical activity linked to technological advances in the labour force and at home; and greater consumption of unhealthy foods often linked to an increase in wealth and income.

Exposure to environmental risks, such as air pollution, and constrained access to basic services also contribute significantly to the epidemic.

Today, overweight and obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer, are among the top three killers in every region of the world except in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Reducing overweight and obesity is a global public good. Proactively addressing this issue will contribute significantly to building human capital, ensuring higher economic growth, and sustaining a workforce that is healthy and prepared for a productive future.” This is according to Annette Dixon, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank.

Costs and impacts of obesity

It is projected that in the next 15 years, the costs of obesity will total more than US$7 trillion (Ksh700 trillion) in developing countries, leaving the most disadvantaged far behind.

For example, in China between 2000 and 2009, health care costs associated with obesity grew from half a percent to more than 3 percent of China’s annual health care expenditure.

In Brazil, obesity-related health care costs are expected to double, from less than US$6 billion in 2010 to more than US$10 billion in 2050.

It is not only the health care costs but also the indirect costs due to reduced work productivity, absenteeism, early retirement, etc., that the society and individuals will have to bear.

The World Bank report shows that investments today in cost-effective interventions could save 8.2 million lives in poorer countries and generate US$350 billion in economic benefits by 2030, an equivalent to a return of US$7 per person for every dollar invested.

Adjusting to demographic changes

Many countries across the globe are now suffering from what is referred to as the “double burden of malnutrition”—high rates of child stunting and rapidly increasing obesity rates, further compromising their human capital.

This double burden translates into changes in family structures, as family members, particularly women, become the de facto caregivers for older adults. In addition, poor people experience a greater share of the problem as they are more vulnerable to health and economic shocks.

Chronic and non-communicable diseases are projected to rise by 2030, despite changing lifestyles, ageing populations, and growing urbanization. As countries experience economic growth and food system changes, so does the temptation of people to consume unhealthy foods and exercise less.

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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