SA’s obesity epidemic puts a strain on stretched health budget — World Obesity Fund report

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South Africa’s obesity epidemic shows no sign of slowing and is likely to affect almost half the country’s women and almost a quarter of its men by 2025, putting strain on an already stretched health budget, according to a new report from the World Obesity Federation.

Business Day reports that it means South Africa will miss the World Health Organisation target of holding obesity rates steady at 2010 levels, and face deepening associated health-care costs.

It is estimated in the report that South Africa’s obesity-associated costs stood at $3.5bn (R53.9bn) in 2016. Obesity increases the risk of many health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and shortens life expectancy.

The report says South Africa and Algeria are the two African countries with the highest rates of adult obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is weight divided by height squared. The report highlights that obesity is growing fastest in low- and middle-income countries, with the most rapid rise in Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

According to Business Day the federation called for a re-evaluation of the approach countries are taking to tackle obesity, which affects 650m adults and more than 125m children worldwide.

“Obesity in South Africa has many roots, including urbanisation, development and poverty,” said the federation’s policy director, Hannah Brinsden. Brinsden said governments should implement policies that promote healthier food and restrict the marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt, and develop cities that make it easier for people to be more active.

Full Business Day report

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