Obesity is a major health concern in Ethiopia

Posted on December 26, 2014 05:59 pm

After decades of addressing the lack of nutrition among Ethiopians, health officials are now worried about an issue at the other end of the health spectrum — obesity.“We are facing multiple nutrition problems that need to be addressed immediately not only malnutrition, but over-nutrition and obesity,” said a community health education officer at the Ministry of Health in Addis Ababa, the country’s capital.The email exchange conversation was sparked by recent posts I wrote on my blog. The middle aged community office revealed to me that introducing a proper understanding of a balanced diet was a challenge not only among the middle and lower classes, but also in the upper class in Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing economies in sub saharan Africa. The obesity problem in Ethiopia has been increasing over the past few years, not only in the big cities but also in rural areas. He cited the results of a 2011 study on basic health to show that obesity was beginning to become a serious problem for the country.The results showed that 12.4 percent of the population aged over 15 years was either overweight or obese and the same problems affected 17.9 percent of children under the age of 15. However, the officer said that obesity was not an indicator of improving economic conditions as such but rather, it was merely the result of a lack of information and education about what a balanced diet was.By merely consuming a complete range of food types without considering the proper proportions did not make for a balanced diet.

London Restaurant at Bole International Airport last time I passed there
London Restaurant at Bole International Airport last time I passed there

Everybody has different ideal intakes,” officer said. “You cannot give the same amount of food to a sick child and a healthy one. Studies have shown that Ethiopians were still used to the old-fashioned concept where the ideal intake included carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and milk. Though the concept is good, many people mistakenly think that consuming foods from all five groups makes them healthy, whereas more important is having a balanced intake. The internationally recognized balanced diet puts more importance on vitamins than carbohydrates, and therefore fruits and vegetables should be prioritized in the daily menu instead of potatoes, flour or rice. The concept of nutrition is like an upside down pyramid, where carbohydrates are prioritized and fruits and vegetables are only considered as complements,according to the health community expert who expressed surprise that techies(your blogger) understand importance of balanced diet.An imbalanced diet could cause not only malnutrition but also obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A recent study showed that the main causes of death in the Sub Saharan Africa had shifted from communicable diseases to so-called lifestyle diseases, with stroke and heart attack coming out as the top killers in most countries.The study also showed that South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya had the highest prevalence of obesity, with more than 20 percent of the people suffering from excess body fat.Africa’s heterogeneity was also cited in a different study carried out by a UK health marketing group in 2013 on how it played a role in the obesity problem.Different African cultures have their own definition of nutritious food and own eating habits, and sometimes it affects nutrition intake.Rural areas across Africa, for instance, there are relatively few obesity cases because traditional African food is quite healthy, whereas in urban areas, where everything is cooked, obesity numbers are relatively high.

Contador Harrison