WHO report highlights fivefold increase in obesity, poor health among wealthier women

WHO report highlights fivefold increase in obesity, poor health among wealthier women
Wealthier women five times more obese, unhealthy - WHO report

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) report reveals a fivefold higher prevalence of overweight women in wealthier households compared to the poorest ones.

The same trend is observed in men from a similar environment but worsens for those who have attained more than secondary level education.

“Women in the wealthiest households are five times more overweight or obese than women from the poorest households (45% vs 8%). Men with more than secondary education (28%) and those from the wealthiest households (21%) are overweight or obese, as mentioned in the report,” states part of the report.

Overweight and obesity present an escalating health challenge, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on March 1. The report reveals that adult obesity worldwide has more than doubled since 1990, while adolescent obesity has quadrupled over the same period.

“In 2022, 2.5 billion adults (18 years and older) were overweight. Of these, 890 million were living with obesity,” highlights the WHO report.

Samalie Namukose, the assistant commissioner of the nutrition division of the ministry of Health, notes that the overweight condition leading to obesity is more of a lifestyle issue. Its prevention starts at an individual level, unlike other public health issues.

“These numbers are becoming worrisome worldwide, and we should actively fight it as individuals,” she added.

Namukose emphasizes that people in wealthier households are at a higher risk due to having disposable money for unhealthy foods, predisposing them to this condition. Overweight and obesity largely result from an imbalance of diet and physical activity.

“Many times when you have money, it tempts you to buy all kinds of foods to consume and in many cases, these women go for quick products, they go for meat, they go for things like that which when over consumed it can lead to overweight and if not addressed obesity which is not very healthy. So it is all around having money and being able to buy whatever one wants and consuming those foods – excess nutrients more than the body requires,” said Namukose.

To alter this trend, Namukose believes that increased awareness through aggressive sensitization would make an impact because the condition requires personal decisions to combat it. Individuals should be empowered to make informed decisions.

“What can be done is to create awareness, teach, and provide health and nutrition education to communities about the need to eat well for better health,” she said.

Betty Kyaddondo, director of family health at the Population Council in Uganda, agrees with Namukose that the UDHS report findings reflect the investment in the health of the Ugandan people. Kyaddondo emphasizes that overweight and obesity result from lifestyle choices, especially regarding food and physical activities.

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According to Kyaddondo, the daily routine of wealthier people is another contributing factor to the overweight and obesity problem, as it doesn’t allow them to naturally exercise their bodies. She advises opting for home-cooked, steamed, or boiled food, avoiding excessive oil, and limiting processed foods, and sugars to stay healthier.

“We’re less active because we sit in a vehicle and we’re driven to where we’re going. The woman in the village is going to be more physically active by going to their garden in the morning, digging until about midday and then going back home, and then fetching water. So they are physically active which they think is a problem but it is actually helping them to stay more healthy,” said Kyaddondo.

These efforts, as outlined by health officials, aim to address the concerning rise in overweight and obesity in Uganda and promote healthier lifestyle choices.