For World Obesity Day, medical organizations and patients are making their voices heard
As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, obesity remains another persistent public health challenge that significantly increases the risk of developing severe complications from the virus.
In the Philippines, the burden of obesity continues to rise, with the prevalence among adults doubling in the past decade. Nearly four out of ten adults are overweight or obese, putting them at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, CVD, and other chronic diseases. Despite being labeled a simple lifestyle choice, obesity is a complex disease that requires a comprehensive approach to prevention and management. (1) Medical organizations like Novo Nordisk Philippines recognizes the urgent need for action and aims to educate patients, doctors, and stakeholders on the psychological aspects of obesity and the hope of defeating this chronic disease.
The theme for this year’s World Obesity Day observance is “Changing the perspectives: Let’s talk about obesity.” It aims to provide a platform for people affected by obesity to share their experiences and stories, thereby empowering them and creating a more compassionate dialogue around this chronic disease. This theme seeks to shift the narrative from one of shame and stigma to one of empathy, understanding, and support.
Over 1 billion people worldwide are affected by the global obesity epidemic, including 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents, and 39 million children. The World Health Organization predicts that this number will continue to rise, with 167 million individuals projected to experience declining health due to overweight or obesity by 2025. (2) Obesity is particularly prevalent in the Philippines where 36.6% of individuals aged 20 years or older meet the WHO BMI cutoff points for being overweight or obese. This translates to approximately 27 million Filipinos who are considered overweight or obese, according to the most recent survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology. (3)
Obesity not only affects physical health but also mental well-being and social and economic status.
“Obesity is not just about being overweight; it is a chronic disease that affects the whole body. The prevalence and burden of obesity in the Philippines are alarming, and we need to understand the physiological aspect of obesity to provide appropriate management and care to those affected,” said Dr. Joy Arabelle Fontanilla, an endocrinologist.
Obesity is more than meets the eye
Obesity is not just a physical issue but also a complex psychological and emotional one. The stigma and discrimination associated with obesity can significantly impact a person’s mental health and quality of life, leading to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Moreover, the cultural norms and societal expectations around body image can further exacerbate these psychological factors, making it challenging for individuals affected by obesity to seek help and support. (4)
“The stigma and discrimination associated with obesity can lead to psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Addressing the mental health effects of obesity is crucial in providing comprehensive care and support to individuals affected by this chronic disease,” noted Dr. Edgardo Tolentino, Jr., Psychiatrist.
“Medical societies play a crucial role in addressing the complex issue of obesity in the Philippines. By continuously advocating for evidence-based approaches to prevent and manage obesity, medical societies can help change the narrative around this chronic disease. With the support of the medical community, we can improve the health and well-being of Filipinos affected by obesity and other related diseases.” – Dr. Nemencio A. Nicodemus, Jr., professor at the UP College of Medicine and president of the Philippine Association of the Study of Overweight and Obesity.
By changing the narrative and battling stigma as a first step, these organizations aim to change the way obesity is treated as a disease.
The voice of the public
Novo Nordisk recognizes the importance of addressing the psychological aspects of obesity and encourages patients, doctors, and stakeholders to join the conversation and break the stigma surrounding this chronic disease.
“As a country that values health and wellness, Denmark recognizes the importance of addressing the global obesity epidemic. We share in amplifying the conversation on obesity and promoting awareness and education to combat this chronic disease. We support the efforts of Novo Nordisk and other organizations in providing innovative treatments and comprehensive care to those affected by obesity. Together, we can make significant progress in defeating this public health challenge,” emphasized Hon. Franz-Michael “Dan-Dan” Mellbin, Danish Ambassador.
By creating a more supportive and inclusive environment, it is hoped that individuals affected by obesity will be more likely to seek the help and support they need to manage this chronic disease effectively. Here are some practical tips to get people started in changing the narrative toward obesity: (5)
- Educate ourselves and others: By learning about the physiological and psychological complexities of obesity, we can dispel common myths and misconceptions about this disease. We can also share what we have learned with others to promote a more informed and empathetic understanding of obesity.
- Challenge stigma and discrimination: We can be conscious of our own biases and prejudices toward those affected by obesity and actively work to challenge and change them. We can also speak out against body shaming, negative stereotypes, and discriminatory attitudes towards those with obesity.
- Advocate for policy change: We can support policies and initiatives that promote obesity prevention and management, such as public health campaigns, access to healthy foods, and safe opportunities for physical activity. We can also advocate for policies that protect individuals with obesity from discrimination in healthcare, employment, and other areas.
- Support those affected by obesity: We can be a source of support and encouragement for individuals affected by obesity by listening to their experiences, offering empathy and understanding, and promoting self-care and self-compassion.
- Take care of our own health: By becoming positive role models for others and promoting healthy behaviors, such as checking our BMI and knowing what to do with our BMI information, we can prevent obesity and other chronic diseases. This includes adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and seeking medical care when needed.
“At Novo Nordisk, we believe in driving change in obesity by providing innovative treatments, supporting research and education, and collaborating with stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem. We are committed to empowering individuals affected by obesity to live healthier and fulfilling lives, and we will continue to lead the way in this critical mission,” noted Cihan Serdar Kizilcik, Vice President & General Manager, Novo Nordisk.
People should take the first step in changing the narrative around obesity by checking our BMI today. Visit the Truth About Weight website to use their BMI calculator and get the information you need to start the conversation with your doctor about prevention, management, and treatment options.
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