Monday, December 19, 2011

Obesity Among the Poor

Dear Laila kindly provided a translation of my Al Akhbar article

Obesity Among the Poor
More than half of the Lebanese suffer from being overweight or obese. This is a phenomenon which has spread around the world in the past three decades, in parallel with the spread of western diets and the decline of traditional ones, particularly among the poor in both developed and developing countries. Obesity has become a problem for the poor, when in the past it had been the privilege of the rich.
Egypt, where 40% of the population live under the poverty line, is believed to be one of the countries to suffer most from this problem, particularly among women, where 76% of them suffer from being overweight, while 48% are obese. This phenomenon arose because of the abundance of certain basic, imported and subsidized foodstuffs, such as sugar, rice, bread, pasta and cheap cooking oil. Moreover, our countries do not encourage exercise to burn the extra calories.
In France, for example, the state encourages its citizens to substitute using their cars or public transport with walking, particularly after a meal. They call this program “Food and Movement (manger bouger),” and it seeks to protect people from the diseases caused by being overweight such as heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure, as well as cancer. 
Things are different in Beirut and Cairo where walking in a street full of cars, where there is no acknowledgement of the pedestrian’s right to the pavement, could pose a worse danger than heart disease or blood pressure! 
This is why we have to deal with the problem of overweight and obesity by extending the number of programs to guide people towards a good diet and sports, as well as to build free sports facilities. As for the funding for such programs, it is easy. It can be done by subsidizing local produce and taxing foodstuffs which are full of fat, salt and sugar, just as many European countries do, even if this option may not be to the liking of those who import and manufacture these foodstuffs. 

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