Obesity Epidemic
For a long time, many have considered obesity a disease that plagues the world’s countries with the highest incomes. It affects only those who could afford to over-eat. However, this is increasingly no longer the issue as low-middle-income countries bear the heaviest burden of obesity. The stain that diseases like life-threatening diabetes cause only further exacerbates this. An ODI report found that compared to high-income countries, obesity rates were twice as high in lower-income countries with the rates of fat and sugar consumption rising as well. Currently, the WHO estimates there are 115 million people with obesity in developing countries. Despite global health intervention efforts, diabetes continues to target the poorest and perhaps a more holistic approach would be more effective. Here is some information about the global obesity epidemic.

Genetics and the Environment

Previous studies have pointed to genetics as one of the main obesogenic factors. They suggest that lesser developed communities lack the genetic capacity to process a modern diet. However, recent research argues that sociocultural factors play the largest role, interacting in ways far more complex than genes or environment. One can see an example of this in the obesity prevention measures that mostly target indigenous communities. This stems from the presumption that they are better genetically programmed for feast and famine cycles and unfit for the modern diet which leads to fat-hoarding “thrifty genes” that conserve excess fat. Nonetheless, indigenous communities also tend to live in poverty and inequality drives obesity.

Changes in Global Production

Many changes in global food production are also leading to higher levels of obesity. One example is the way agricultural corporations use chemicals and factory farms in an effort to have high yields. Nonetheless, findings have determined there is a link between pesticides and industrial farming practices and obesity and other health conditions. Industrialized diets promote cheap energy-dense food and its marketing makes it more accessible. Moreover, areas with high rates of poverty also tend to have the least access to food that is both affordable and nutritious.

Aggressive Diabetes in Belize

The West treats diabetes as a manageable disease that is often non-life threatening, thanks to the various available medical resources. However, in Belize, diabetes is regarded as one of the leading causes of death. This high death rate is due to a lack of available resources and medical infrastructure in the country to treat patients. Moreover, patients have also cited the issue of struggling to afford the weekly bus fare to the hospital, causing them to miss medical appointments. Nonetheless, Belizean diabetic patients are instead using their voices to campaign for better medical infrastructure in the country, transforming themselves from victims to activists.

World Obesity Day Addressing the Obesity Epidemic

World Obesity Day serves to encourage discussion surrounding the global obesity epidemic to acknowledge its complexities and take action to break norms and revolutionize health outcomes. The World Obesity Federation emerged in 1967 as the former Obesity Association. It strives to provide and bring forward first-rate problem-solving in terms of the obesity crisis. The federation aims to change the narrative around global obesity and work with governments and health bodies to ensure the right initiatives are occurring to help solve the global obesity problem.

Obesity’s effects are detrimental to the poorest countries. Countries that are the least medically equipped must manage its repercussions. As World Obesity Day approaches on March 4th, it is imperative not to forget about low-income countries and the burden they bear. In the West, much of the discussion surrounding obesity focuses on a local problem. However, for those countries that cannot afford to provide medical treatment, this discussion should expand and interventions should be on offer to help obesity’s most vulnerable victims.

– Genevieve Lewis
Photo: Flickr