Na­tions must col­lab­o­rate to fight obe­sity


Shar­ing lessons learnt is cru­cial as obe­sity lev­els across the world con­tinue to rise

Yes­ter­day was World Obe­sity Day and a day to share ideas on how to ar­rest that steadily grow­ing waist­line.

Obe­sity is a lead­ing cause of di­a­betes, which Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong called a “health cri­sis” in his Na­tional Day Rally speech last year.

One rea­son why it is so hard to treat obe­sity is that be­ing over­weight is still quite stig­ma­tised and dif­fi­cult to talk about.

Stud­ies in Den­mark show that failed di­ets and dropouts of weight-loss pro­grammes are less in­flu­enced by eco­nomic and de­mo­graphic fac­tors than by the de­gree of so­cial sup­port.

In other words, we have to work to­gether to fight obe­sity.

Den­mark is ac­tively com­mit­ted to fight­ing obe­sity and di­a­betes but can­not yet claim vic­tory.

Over the last 33 years, no coun­try has found the cure to re­verse ris­ing obe­sity lev­els.

Glob­ally, the num­ber of obese peo­ple has tripled over 40 years.

Den­mark re­cently launched an ac­tion plan for the treat­ment of di­a­betes and obe­sity, one that puts peo­ple and so­cial re­la­tions front and cen­tre.

Only through un­der­stand­ing, re­spect and recog­ni­tion of obe­sity as a chronic disease can gov­ern­ments and health­care ser­vices pri­ori­tise and fund ef­fec­tive pre­ven­tion and treat­ment to re­duce the bur­den on in­di­vid­u­als and so­ci­eties as a whole.

Cen­tral to adopt­ing a peo­ple­cen­tric ap­proach is al­low­ing those who are obese to live their lives with fewer – not fur­ther – re­stric­tions.

Keep­ing one’s obe­sity pri­vate, un­like other dis­eases, is a prac­ti­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity. It is the first thing one shows. It af­fects all as­pects of in­ter­ac­tions in one’s work life, so­cial life and love life. These strug­gles should be un­der­stood.

The re­sponse can take the form of multi-dis­ci­plinary so­cial ser­vices, train­ing health­care work­ers and, most im­por­tantly, a pub­lic dis­course on obe­sity in line with con­cealed dis­eases such as di­a­betes.

The re­spon­si­bil­ity of end­ing weight stigma lies at a per­sonal, pub­lic and po­lit­i­cal level. It calls for col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween me­dia and the masses.

It is im­por­tant to im­prove the lives of those suf­fer­ing from obe­sity, but it is also im­por­tant to act for the sake of so­ci­ety as a whole.

In Sin­ga­pore alone, the es­ti­mated cost of obe­sity was $2.77 bil­lion in 2016, from lost pro­duc­tiv­ity and health­care spend­ing. Given the obe­sity fore­casts, the eco­nomic bur­den will only rise.

World­wide, lost pro­duc­tiv­ity ac­counts for be­tween 54 per cent and 59 per cent of the obe­sity-re­lated eco­nomic bur­den.

In­di­vid­u­als with obe­sity have an ad­di­tional 3.1 days of ab­sence yearly. An ad­di­tional 5.1 days a year is lost in re­duced pro­duc­tiv­ity com­pared to em­ploy­ees of nor­mal weight.

Obe­sity is di­rectly linked to a range of chronic dis­eases re­spon­si­ble for most deaths caused by non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases.

These in­clude car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease, Type 2 di­a­betes and var­i­ous forms of can­cers. Weight loss of just 5 per cent to 10 per cent greatly re­duces the sever­ity and im­proves qual­ity of life.

Sin­ga­pore is fight­ing the war on di­a­betes and Den­mark is a global leader in di­a­betes treat­ment and holis­tic so­cial care.

Through open di­a­logue and shar­ing lessons learnt, we can move the dial on obe­sity.

World Obe­sity Day ad­vo­cates an end to weight stigma, and the day is an im­por­tant an­chor to change the way we speak about be­ing over­weight and end iso­la­tion.

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