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Do you belong to an obese country?

A person is considered obese if they have a body mass index of over 30. Approximately 3.4 million adults succumb to death every year as a result of being obese or overweight. Obesity can be a serious problem and some countries have a bigger obese population than others. The most obese countries include the Cook Islands and Nauru in the top spots.

The risks of obesity are heart problems, diabetes, and blood pressure. It is vastly spreading among children and young adults and this is leading to several problems in younger school going kids. A future generation of obese adults with several health issue is not what we should aim for a successful country.

Countries with the highest obese rate as mentioned by WHO are (1)

  1. USA 38.2%
  2. Mexico 4%
  3. New Zealand 30.2%
  4. Hungary 30%
  5. Australia 27.9%
  6. UK 26.9%
  7. Canada 25.8%

Countries with the least obese rate as mentioned by OECD data are

  1. Japan 3.7%
  2. Korea 5.3%
  3. Italy 9.8%
  4. Switzerland 10.3%
  5. Norway 12.0%
  6. Sweden 12.3%
  7. Netherlands 12.8%

Let’s see what are the best practices of the successful countries to the fight the obesity? 

 

Intervention at the primary level

Along with the healthcare facility that is given to the general public the benefits of keeping fit is advised and the necessary exercises are advised. People are educated about the nutritious food, the portion size and the interval at which the food taken is advised. Subsidies are given for choosing public transport over personal cars to encourage people to walk and reduce the dependency on cars.

 

Food Labeling can also help in making the right food choice

Food labels can be very useful like listing the nutrient lists, informative logos, listing the negatives and positives characteristics of the food. In study done by Cecchini and Warin (2016) they found that that nutrition labelling may be an effective approach to empowering consumers in choosing healthier products.(2) Traffic light schemes have been made mandatory in some countries Chile and Korea.

 

Taxation on unhealthy food

In many countries the government has increased the tax on junk food (food with more salt, sugar, or high in fats) examples of such countries are Belgium, Chile, France, Finland, Mexico and Hungary. In Australia raising the price on Cigarettes and Alcohol have brought down the consumption of both and the effects of adding a tax to foods based on saturated fat, salt and sugar content, adding a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, and placing a subsidy on fruits and vegetables is also been working succefully.

Social Media and Technology

Many Countries are taking the help of social media to promote healthy diets by improving health literacy and empowering consumers, or by regulating marketing of potentially unhealthy products. Facebook and Twitter have been very handy in spreading some campaigns like Change4llife in UK successfully reached its target audience, with 58% of adults switching to lower fat dairy products compared t0 28% in the comparison group.

The Chilean Government launched the “Choose to live healthy Campaign”, a web based tool. In Switzerland the “SRF Bewegt was launched which was app based. “Be Food Smart” app launched in England that scans the sugar, salt and fats in the packaged food.

Food Labeling can also help in making the right food choice

Food labels can be very useful like listing the nutrient lists, informative logos, listing the negatives and positives characteristics of the food. In study done by Cecchini and Warin (2016) they found that that nutrition labelling may be an effective approach to empowering consumers in choosing healthier products.(2) Traffic light schemes have been made mandatory in some countries Chile and Korea.

Reducing calories intake in food offered in Restaurant Chains

Legislation in some countries requires displaying calorie counts on the restaurant menus (e.g., in chain restaurants in the United States as of May 2017, in several Australian states since 2016, and in Ontario, Canada, as of 2017).

In the United States, several municipalities (e.g., New York City and Philadelphia) and states (e.g., California and Vermont) have already implemented legislation to show on the menu the nutrient content of dishes.

In a study done by Morley et al (2013) they found that subjects in the no labeling condition selected meals with the highest mean energy content and those viewing the kilojoules and kilojoule + traffic light information selected meals with a significantly lower mean energy content, that constituted a reduction of around 500 kJ.(3)thus menu labeling is an equitable means of choosing healthier food options.

Mass Media Campaigns to increase the awareness of healthier food consumption

Mass media campaigns help to reach a broad-targeted audience and increase awareness about the importance of adequate fruit and vegetable consumption.  A mass media campaigning done through tv, newspapers, radio and at point of sale, the result of the campaign was that the campaign reached the target audience, increasing awareness of the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables. There was a population net increase of 0.8 in the mean number of servings of fruit and vegetables per day for three years. All it needs a sustained, well executed marketing to keep people healthy. (4)

Examples of some campaigns are “Eat Move” in France, “Live lighter” in Australia, Let’s take on child obesity in Ireland, 5 a day in Chile, Germany etc, 6 a day in Denmark and 2+5 a day in Australia.

 

 

Regulation on Advertisements

Believe it or not many of us get addicted to junk through tv ads and banners, So ads through tv and radio during hours when children are the main audience have been put in place in Chile, Iceland, Ireland, and Mexico. Countries like Chile, Poland, Spain and Turkey have put bans on advertising in schools and in public transport in Australia and other public places.

Examples are “The Forum of Responsible Food Marketing Communication” launched by Denmark, In Canberra, Australia – advertising junk food and alcohol is banned. In Latvia sale of energy drinks to children less than 18 yrs of age is banned. A self regulation scheme in Norway to ban marketing of unhealthy food to children, younger than 12 years of age.

When the government comes forward and takes the responsibility of good and bad available in the market, we can definitely push the obesity off from the axis. Let’s take examples from countries that are successfully working towards making its citizens healthy and happy. It will be successful if the industries come forward like Ireland’s campaign called “A Healthy Weight for Ireland 2016-2025”, another example is the “Promoting Physical Activity Project” with 275,000 bicycles distributed to schools, universities, municipalities and NGOs by Turkey.

References:

1. https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf
2. Cecchini & Warin. Impact of food labelling systems on food choices and eating behaviours: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized studies. 2016
3. What types of nutrition menu labelling lead consumers to select less energy-dense fast food? An experimental study (2013)
4. Poolard et al. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption: success of the Western Australian Go for 2&5R campaign.2008

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