The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

TMID Editorial: Getting Malta off the obesity list

Saturday, 7 May 2022, 07:16 Last update: about 9 days ago

A lot has been said of many Maltese being experts at fattening their pockets.  But the fact is that, besides that, we continue to be experts when it comes to fattening up our own figure.

That’s shown by the World Health Organisation, with their latest report – published this week – showing that over three-quarters of men in Malta are overweight (the highest rate in Europe) and that a quarter of the country’s adult population is obese.

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Malta has topped the overweight and obesity rankings for years, and it is predicted that the problem will only worsen, and that a third of Malta’s adult population will be obese by 2030.

This is reflected by the WHO’s statistics: over 45% of 11-year-olds are overweight, and 40% of 15-year-olds are overweight as well.

Such statistics do not paint a particularly rosy for the country’s health.  It is a known fact that being overweight or obese carries with it increased risk of a number of health complications.  These complications include respiratory conditions, diabetes and at least 13 different kinds of cancer.

The matter at hand is now how to solve – or at least start solving – this problem. 

Different countries have had different solutions revolving around encouraging a healthier lifestyle in people. 

Some have adopted junk food taxes or sugar taxes in order to wean people off unhealthy foods.  However, at least in the view of this writer, the more ideal direction would be to make healthier food cheaper and more accessible to people. 

It’s a fact that healthier food generally carries a heftier price tag than food which tends to be unhealthy.  Simply taxing unhealthy food creates an addition burden on those with low incomes because the alternative – being healthy good – will remain the same price. 

In this instance, perhaps the government needs to consider healthy food subsidies, and providing incentives to shops and supermarkets for giving more emphasis to healthy products in their display shelves.

Eating healthy also needs to be normalised: awareness campaigns on what food is healthy and what isn’t, and even on how one can cook healthy food in a quick and easy manner can also be considered.  Something as simple as a small brochure containing ten, simple, healthy recipes for a daily meal to be sent to all households could even start to make a difference.

It’s not just healthy eating: physical activity is a hugely important factor in this regard.

Our communal lack of physical activity as a society is worrying to say the least.  This culture of laziness –which in a lot of cases is what the problem born from – is bred from an early age. 

How can we lament at our high obesity rates, when our children only have an hour a week at school dedicated to physical activity lessons?  If anything – it should be at least an hour every day!  Children aren’t made to be locked up in classrooms for eight hours a day and have information which will scarcely be used in their future life drummed into them.

They need physical activity, which will ultimately keep them healthier, and may even encourage them to take up a sport or at least a healthier lifestyle in their later years.

That’s a mentality change which needs to start first from the top.

If it does, maybe in a few years we won’t be considered as Europe’s fattest country, as we are now.

 

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