BeActive Foundation Ghana embarks on Health Walk to mark World Obesity Day 2023
BeActive Foundation Ghana, a non-profit organization and an Associate member of the World Obesity Federation embarked on a health walk in Aburi, Ghana to mark this year’s World Obesity Day. According to the President of the Foundation, Mr. Emmanuel Akoto, World Obesity Day is observed globally on March 4th to create awareness about obesity and call for a cohesive, cross-sector response to the global obesity epidemic. The goal of the campaign is to stimulate and support practical actions that will help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reverse the global obesity crisis.
The Obesity Epidemic
More than 1 billion people worldwide are obese – 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children. This number is still increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2035, 1.9 billion people will be living with the disease (i.e., 1 in 4 of us). The estimated global economic impact of overweight and obesity is expected to reach $1.2 trillion and $4.32 trillion in 2025 and 2035 respectively. According to the World Obesity Federation (WOF), if current trends remain the same, the economic impact of obesity will reach 3.3% of global GDP by 2060. Childhood obesity is equally expected to increase by 100% between 2020 and 2035. These fugues are staggering and that’s why action is more urgent than ever.
Obesity is one of the most glaring – yet most neglected – public health problems. Despite the many warnings that have been raised by organizations such as the WHO and WOF since the early 2000s, obesity rates continue to rise. To date, no country has reversed its rising obesity rates and current trends suggest that obesity prevalence will continue to rise starkly. If immediate action is not taken, millions will continue to suffer from an array of serious health disorders. Children in particular will suffer as overweight and obesity in childhood is known to have a significant impact on both their physical and psychological health. Overweight and children living with obesity are more likely to be bullied and experience name-calling than normal-weight children which can affect their self-esteem. They are also likely to live with obesity into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases.
The Health Walk
The Health Walk begun from the Ayi-Mensah toll-booth to the Peduase lodge, a 10km stretch up the Aburi mountain and back. During the walk, members of the Foundation distributed fliers on the root causes of obesity and basic facts on obesity to the general public. Members of the public were also offered free BMI screening and given counselling on how to reduce their weight and prevent obesity. According to Mr. Akoto, this year’s theme couldn’t have been more apt given the various misconceptions surrounding obesity.
2023 Theme – Changing Perspectives; Let’s talk about Obesity
Each year, World Obesity Day campaign runs on a specific theme. This year’s theme is Changing Perspectives; Let’s talk about Obesity. The goal with this theme is to use conversation and stories to help people change perspectives, correct misconceptions, end stigmas and get everybody making the decision to shift from single views to shared strategies. With important conversations and real stories, we can help people acknowledge obesity's complexities and take effective action. Because when we talk, debate and share, we can shift norms and transform health outcomes.
Let’s talk about genetic risk as a factor for obesity. Did you that our genes count for somewhere between 40-70% of our likelihood to develop obesity?
Let’s talk about how the food we have available to us contributes to obesity. Ultra-processed foods, now cheaply and widely available all over the world, is contributing to the rapid rise in obesity. Trans fats, which are often found in most processed foods not only contributes to obesity but to heart disease.
Let’s talk about creating healthy work environments. We all need respect, practical and emotional support, and a comfortable workplace to feel included, and ultimately thrive at work. Employers must establish health-promoting policies and implement workplace health promotion programs to improve employee health.
Let’s talk about how life events can influence weight gain and obesity. Our experiences, from prenatal life to early adulthood, pregnancy, sedentary work, illness and more can influence weight gain.
Let’s talk about food marketing as a contributing cause of obesity. There is a complex relationship between food systems and health, and the marketing of food products has a known link to obesity.
Let’s talk about the stigma that people living with obesity face. In many countries including Ghana, people living with obesity are labelled as ‘obolo’ or ‘oboshie’ and regularly blamed for it due to misconceptions and biases. Weight stigma reinforces incorrect assumptions that obesity is merely a person’s individual responsibility. Obesity is often driven by forces outside of a person’s control and is the result of complex biological, genetic and environmental factors.
Let’s talk about sleep. Did you that inadequate sleep disturbs hormones, which in turn can affect weight, as can stress? Sleep is intricately connected to various hormonal and metabolic processes in the body and is important in maintaining a healthy weight. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS) recommends 7 hours of sleep for most healthy adults.
Let’s talk about mental health. The relationship between mental health and obesity is complex. Some mental health disorders, and their associated medications, can lead to weight gain, while excess weight increases the risk of certain disorders such as depression.
Let’s talk about the risk factor of living with obesity for other health conditions. People living with obesity may be at a greater risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and certain cancers. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people living with obesity were three times more likely to be hospitalized.
Finally, let’s talk about bold policies. Policy makers must prioritize obesity and create national action plans. Government must provide leadership and coordinate a public-private sector response, as well as initiate programs with a strong focus on preventive measures.
With conversations like these, we can help change perspectives and misconceptions surrounding obesity. World Obesity Day 2023 is a reminder, that we can all work together to ensure happier, healthier, and longer lives for everybody.