Is the Philippines experiencing an obesity epidemic?
Apparently, yes, according to Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire
“We have an obesity epidemic here in the Philippines,” Vergeire said in a media forum.
Citing the latest survey, Vergeire said that 14 percent or one in 10 Filipino school-aged children are obese.
Thirteen percent or one in 10 Filipino adolescents are also considered overweight.
Three in 10 lactating mothers and 4 in 10 adults are obese.
Likely to develop noncommunicable diseases
According to the World Health Organization, overweight and obese children are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and to develop noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.
Obese children and adolescents may also suffer from both short-term and long-term health consequences.
Overnutrition such as overweight and obesity, the DOH said, is a serious health concern especially in the light of its strong association with the development of non-communicable diseases which are among the leading causes of mortality, morbidity and disability in the country today.
These NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, renal diseases, and degenerative arthritis, gout and gallbladder diseases.
With the various medical consequences associated with overnutrition, this weight problem contributes to decreased productivity and economic growth retardation.
Factors contributing to the increasing problem of overweight and obesity include poor diets, inadequate nutrition, and failing food systems.
In addition, limited physical activity is likewise contributing to the growing problem on overweight and obesity.
Prevention is key
The DOH said prevention remains to be the most feasible option for curbing the childhood obesity epidemic.
Results from the Expanded National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) in 2019 reported a relatively low prevalence of overweight at 2.9 percent among children under five years old; medium prevalence of 9.1 percent and 9.8 percent among children aged five to 10 years old and 10 to 19 years old, respectively.
Among Filipino adolescents, overweight has tripled in the last 15 years.
There is a higher rate of overweight and obese children in urban areas than in rural areas and higher prevalence of several risk factors and environmental conditions could rapidly increase the rates.