CECHE Center for Communications, Health and the Environment
|Spring/Summer 2003||Vol. 11, Issue 1|
Can a New Diet-Exercise Paradigm
Combat The Chronic-Disease Pandemic?
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CECHE Chairman Sushma Palmer Comments on This Quarter's Topics
Action, not Reports, Needed to Reverse Diet, Nutrition Woes
The "5 A Day" Campaign: Are Americans Listening?
Sedentarism Runs Rampant Worldwide
South Indian Reproductive Health Tied to Cultural Roots
Democracy and Health Go Hand in Hand
Guidelines Dictate Lifestyle Changes for Americans
WHO Is Central to Fighting NCDs
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Obesity Epidemic Tied To Urbanization, Technological Change
by Barry M. Popkin, Professor of Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
incidence of obesity and noncommunicable diseases is up worldwide, and
increasing urbanization and technological change are the main catalysts
for this remarkably rapid, and decidedly dangerous, rise. In countries
as diverse as the United States, Mexico, Egypt and South Africa, levels
of obesity and related co-morbidities, such as diabetes and cardiovascular
diseases, currently affect 25 to 50 percent of the population. A
"nutrition transition," or shift in diet, physical activity,
health and nutrition, is the culprit, and can be traced to higher incomes,
the influence of mass media and food marketing, and changes in the nature
of work and leisure.
The Nutrition Transition
Urban dwellers have vastly different lifestyles than rural residents. And their alternate patterns of food demand and time allocation have an enormous effect on diet, physical activity and overall health.
Diabetes is one critical scourge associated with the obesity epidemic and its corresponding dietary and physical activity patterns. In the United States, Mexico, many Latin American nations, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, 6 to 10 percent of the adult population has diabetes. Several studies also show that many cardiovascular diseases related to obesity and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis, are increasing rapidly. More recently, cancer rates have begun to escalate worldwide. In China, cancer- and cardiovascular disease-related deaths are increasing fast enough to offset the reductions in infectious disease deaths, as well as to account for increases in total mortality rates.
Prevention is the only feasible approach to obesity, because the cost of treatment and management imposes an intolerable economic burden on developing countries. There is, therefore, an urgent need for governments, in partnership with health professionals, nongovernment organizations and the food industry, among others, to integrate strategies to promote healthful diets and regular physical activity into policies and programs, including those designed to combat undernutrition. An effective course of action must include community empowerment and support to overcome the environmental, social and economic constraints to improve dietary quality and reduce sedentarism. Finland and Norway, for example, succeeded in reversing extremely high levels of nutrition-related chronic diseases over a relatively short period through comprehensive food policy and community involvement. With effective public-private partnerships, less developed countries can begin to do the same. [back to front....]
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