Chang­ing so­ci­ety a big chal­lenge

The Herald (South Africa) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

FATTEST city in the coun­try – that’s Port El­iz­a­beth, ac­cord­ing to health and in­sur­ance com­pany Dis­cov­ery, which has re­leased an up­dated obe­sity in­dex based on client data.

Sadly, since the last sur­vey three years ago, not much has changed.

Peo­ple in Port El­iz­a­beth have shown mar­ginal progress los­ing weight, which of­fers some hope, but we still rank bot­tom of the fatty class, one that in­cludes Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg, Durban, Pre­to­ria and Bloem­fontein.

Two things stand out: our di­ets are gen­er­ally poor and we lead in­ac­tive life­styles for the most part.

Both fac­tors are com­bin­ing in a deadly way. Ear­lier this year, Stat­sSA re­vealed that di­a­betes was the lead­ing cause of nat­u­ral deaths in Nel­son Man­dela Bay metro, re­plac­ing tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

The same causal fac­tors – sat­u­rated, pro­cessed foods and poor ex­er­cise – were cited in that sur­vey.

“Th­ese find­ings val­i­date our view that life­style dis­ease is one of the big­gest so­ci­etal chal­lenges fac­ing South Africa,” said Dis­cov­ery Vi­tal­ity Well­ness head Dr Craig Nos­sel at the time.

His com­ments this week were no less con­cern­ing.

“It means that more peo­ple are now at in­creased risk of heart dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes, cer­tain can­cers and pre­ma­ture death.”

All of which in­crease the bur­den of cost on our health­care sys­tem.

An alarm­ing out­look, in­deed, one which is some­what at odds with the per­cep­tion that our ge­og­ra­phy and cli­mate are nat­u­ral in­duce­ments to eat­ing well and ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly.

Eco­nomics may well have af­fected the choices of cash-strapped con­sumers as they turned to cheaper con­ve­nience foods, typ­i­cally higher in sugar and salt.

Food prices have only re­cently started fall­ing, thanks to drought-bust­ing rain­fall and im­proved in­fla­tion­ary prospects.

Au­gust Con­sumer Price In­dex fig­ures show a 3.6% drop in the price of veg­eta­bles since Jan­uary, fruit by 8.4%.

Th­ese de­clines should help change our buy­ing habits, but ul­ti­mately the choice to lead a healthy life­style is an in­di­vid­ual one.

Chang­ing so­ci­ety is the far greater chal­lenge.

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