Matat mayor declares war on obesity

2012-09-24 00:00

THE Mayor of Matatiele has declared war on fatties, saying that obesity contributes to the high cost of disease-related illnesses.

Ntumbovuyo Nkopane said too many residents in the town, which borders Lesotho and the Eastern Cape, have bulging stomachs and fat thighs.

She declared that they were not eating properly and were not getting enough exercise.

Nkopane has decided to combat the problem by getting the residents to focus on their health and wellness.

She said she was going to declare war on obesity and get the town’s people to take their health seriously.

At a media briefing last week she said she had learnt that many people were being hospitalised at the local Tayler Bequest Hospital due to health conditions related to obesity and diabetes.

Nkopane said: “We must look at providing our youth with more sporting facilities so they can exercise and use more energy.

We must also look at what the women are eating that is contributing to the high rates of [high] blood pressure and the weakness of their bones. It is clear that their diet is not sufficient.

“I am worried because too many people are in hospital for the wrong reasons. I asked our municipal manager, inter-governmental relations forum, nurses and social workers to check the diet deficiency to improve the way we eat.”

The mayor advised residents not to eat food that has been in the fridge for a long time.

“We have a programme from the Rural Development and Agrarian Reform initiative to encourage communities to plant vegetables and eat fresh food.

“We also plan to have our own fresh produce market so that throughout the year we will have fresh food to improve our health.”

The Food Research and Action Centre in the United States has looked at the contributing factors to obesity among poor communities in the developing world.

Its research has revealed that poverty, food insecurity and low income all contribute to obesity.

Certain groups face more challenges in adopting healthy attitudes to healthy eating.

Some of the common factors are:

•Low-income neighbourhoods do not have access to decent grocery stores or vegetable markets. Residents — especially those without transport — may be forced to shop at local spaza shops;

•Healthy food is often more expensive, and refined foods with sugars and fats are generally cheaper and easily available;

•Poor households try to buy in bulk to stretch the budget by buying cheap, energy-dense foods that are filling, like maize, to stave off hunger;

•Healthy food — especially fresh vegetables — is often unappealing and of poor quality in poor areas;

•Poor communities have access to junk food, especially near schools;

•In these areas, there is little opportunity for physical activity, like parks, sports clubs or fields;

•Those who eat less or skip meals to stretch food budgets may overeat or binge when food does become available, resulting in unhealthy eating patterns;

•Food deprivation can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with food and metabolic changes that promote fat storage;

•Stress may lead to weight gain through stress-induced hormonal and metabolic changes, as well as unhealthy eating behaviour. Stress, particularly chronic stress, may also trigger anxiety and depression, which are both associated with child and adult obesity; and

•Many low-income people lack access to basic health care, or if health care is available, it is of lower quality. This results in a lack of diagnosis and treatment of emerging chronic health problems like obesity.

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