Obesity in African countries, as well as malnutrition, is a rising issue. There are many documentations that wealthy countries are having issues with obesity, however, people have found that poorer countries in Africa are experiencing problems as well. This article will take a look at some of the potential reasons why African countries are experiencing obesity and malnutrition, as well as what people are doing to create healthier lifestyles in the future.
Causes of Obesity
Obesity in African countries has been on the rise over the past 25 years. BMJ journal studies have revealed that obesity has tripled in Egypt and Ghana since 1995, and doubled in many other countries such as Niger, Kenya and Rwanda. African women are especially at risk, showing rates of obesity much higher than men. One can attribute much of this rise to a few factors.
For much of the urban population, fast food is now readily available and cheaper than buying produce from a grocery store. This is causing problems with more people choosing fatty fast food with little nutrition over more wholesome options.
Along with this, there is a general lack of knowledge about proper nutrition. With more options readily available in stores, people are able to purchase more than just basic produce. However, without knowing how to eat a proper diet, many people choose the cheapest option or simply what tastes best. This leaves a nutrition gap in people’s diets.
Beyond nutritional issues, there are cultural causes as well. Especially for women, many consider a larger body frame more attractive as they associate it with wealth, success and well-being. This cultural norm can set a dangerous precedent without proper education on true well-being.
The Malabo Montpellier Panel and Potential Solutions
One program working to reduce obesity in Africa is the Malabo Montpellier Panel. This organization is a group of agricultural experts that strive to improve food security in Africa. It attempts to address the cultural and geographical problems causing obesity by influencing policy in African countries. It achieves this through research that it then reports to key government officials in the form of recommendations for policy. One of its achievements is getting 54 countries to sign the Malabo Declaration. This document states that these countries will strive to halve their current rates of poverty by 2025 through agricultural practices that provide jobs for people. These agricultural practices not only improve the economy making eating healthy more fiscally possible, but also ensure continued and improved access to fresh produce.
Striving for influence through policy advisors is just one way to go about solving obesity in Africa. One other such option is the use of educational programs to attempt to teach people better nutritional habits. People can develop programs and deliver them in urban and rural areas to promote healthy eating habits. Along with these programs, individuals can offer classes that instruct on how to properly cook nutritious food. Creating awareness of new cooking techniques can help expand the options people have for preparing food on a budget.
Lastly, people or organizations can implement programs that emphasize the importance of exercise. With more and more people living in urban areas and living sedentary lives, many people are not getting the exercise they need. Programs can both educate people on the importance of exercise, and provide training on how to properly get the exercise necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Though obesity in African countries is an increasing issue, there are options available that provide solutions. Organizations such as the Malabo Montpellier Panel are already starting to address issues and research solutions. As African countries address the issue, society as a whole will be better off and they will be able to put fewer resources into health care for obesity and more people should be able to contribute to the economy. Education and action could potentially eliminate the problem of obesity in developing nations in no time.