36.9% in men, 29.8% in women, 23.8% of boys and 22.6% of girls. That’s the staggering amount of individuals classified as overweight or obese worldwide (Ng et al, 2014).
We’re fighting a war against obesity attempting to maintain population health and wellbeing, obesity increases the risk of developing numerous long term conditions including diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression and many more. In 2010 overweight and obesity contributed to 3.4 million deaths. It’s undisputable that obesity and weight gain is primarily caused by poor lifestyle choices such as leading a sedentary lifestyle and consuming an unhealthy diet. However with such staggering figures one may ask, is obesity a problem caused by the state? With approximately 30% of adults now classified as obese, can individual lifestyle choices be the only cause? I say no.
Obesity is an epidemic requiring deep cultural change, in the last 33 years no country has managed to lower the prevalence of population obesity, not one! Many argue that rising rates of the condition can be attributed to cheap and easily available unhealthy foods, an increase in desk jobs and the preference of many to engage in technology as opposed to activity. It is becoming both undesirable and costly to engage in a healthy lifestyle.
Activity needs to be perceived as desirable. The current approach to nag and guilt trip the population into becoming more active and leading a healthier lifestyle isn’t working. In truth everyone already knows that being overweight isn’t healthy, shoving it down people’s throats every five minutes isn’t going to work. The surge in wearable technology is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. Making activity interesting, utilising something that is hugely popular in smart phone and app technology is sure to capture the interest of many. I’d like to see more of an emphasis on incorporating population interests into the push for improved health and wellbeing… perhaps gameification has a role to play?
One thing is for certain, there’s a need for change. The obesity epidemic is worsening. The time to act was 20 years ago, so we have a lot of catching up to do!
Jack Barton (Researcher, Rescon Ltd)
Ng, M., Fleming, T., Robinson, M., Thomson, B., Graetz, N., Margono, C. et al. (2014). Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet.