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Alarming obesity levels in the world’s developing countries

Friday, November 12th 2010 - 00:35 UTC
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The latest OECD reports calls for action now to prevent a major ‘epidemic’ The latest OECD reports calls for action now to prevent a major ‘epidemic’

A new report by one of the major economic organisations has found that obesity levels in the world’s developing countries are rising at an alarming pace – and that countries should act now to stop a major ‘epidemic’.

The latest edition of the Lancet medical journal carries a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which states that obesity levels are on the up in underdeveloped nations, and that such countries will struggle to cope with the price of healthcare for their own citizens if the problem is not tackled.

Obesity rates in countries such as South Africa and Brazil are already higher than the average in the 33 member states of the OECD.

Because of the increasing prosperity in other less-well off countries, however, the rate of chronic obesity – when the Body Mass Index exceeds 30 – is quickening up so much that poorer countries face major expense – costs they simply cannot afford – if they are to offer the appropriate healthcare for such people.

Compared to the OECD average – where half of all adults can be defined as obese – Mexico ranks highest of the developing nations, with a massive 70% rate of obesity.

The rate in Russia is just under 50%, while China recorded just below 30% and India about 17%.

The OECD report recommends that poorer countries start now to slow down the increase in their obesity rates through media promotions and subsidies on healthier foods, which would add four million years of “life in good health” to Chinese people, and another million to Indians.

The report’s authors calculate that doing this would add one million years of “life in good health” to India's population, and four million to China over the next 20 years.

Michele Cecchini, one of the report's authors, said: “A multiple intervention strategy would achieve substantially larger health gains than individual programs, with better cost-effectiveness”. She suggested that specific action be taken to target childhood obesity.
 

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