MALNUTRITION is a state of deficiency at macro and micro levels owing to deficient or surplus consumption of energy and nutrients. The term encompasses under-nutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, indicating intake issues related to vital minerals and vitamins in diet.
Under-nutrition includes stunting, wasting and being underweight, while excess of nutrients or calorie consumption is defined as overweight and obesity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than one billion people suffer from obesity, with 39 million children, 340 million adolescents and 650 million adults being obese. A report published by the World Obesity Federation in the ‘World Obesity Atlas 2022’, projected that about one in five women and one in seven men will be affected worldwide by obesity by the year 2030.
With one-fifth of world’s population, South Asia is facing significant health problems in the form of obesity. The WHO reported that 58.1 per cent Pakistanis are overweight, and 43.9pc are in the obese category. It is alarming that around 40pc of children in Pakistan are overweight or obese.
Earlier this month (March 4), the World Obesity Day was observed as a reminder of the widespread menace which is actually largely controllable. The day is observed to raise awareness about the global epidemic of obesity and its serious implications on health. The day encourages individuals, communities and the government to take action by tackling obesity, which is the leading cause of preventable death globally.
Its widespread prevalence can be attributed to the availability of convenient and processed foods as well as the huge popularity of high-fat foods, sweetened sugary drinks and beverages in Pakistan. Simultaneously, a sedentary lifestyle due to the widespread use of digital gadgets has decreased the level of physical activity.
Efforts to combat obesity must include public health initiatives to change diet and physical activity patterns by creating green spaces, walking or cycling tracks and recreational parks close to residential areas where women, children and men may spend time in healthy physical activities. The promotion of balanced diet should be encouraged at home and schools with the aim of raising a healthy generation.
It is time to reverse this predictable disease, which requires a multi-faceted approach in prevention and treatment by involving healthcare providers, policymakers, general public, higher authorities and food industries. This is the only way to combat obesity.
Along with education and awareness, community-based interventions should be encouraged, like improving access to healthy food options for children in schools and adults at workplaces.
Other underlying issues, such as poverty, social inequality and limited access to proper healthcare, need to be addressed as well to support individuals and communities in making healthy lifestyle choices for a better outcome.
Tabinda Ashraf Shahid
Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2023
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