OBESITY is now recognized as a progressive chronic disease similar to diabetes or high blood pressure by expert societies such as the Philippine Association of the Study of Obesity and Overweight, the American Medical Association, the World Obesity Federation, the European Association for the Study of Obesity, the US FDA, Obesity Canada, the European Medicines Agency, and the World Health Organization.
In the Philippines, three out of ten Filipino adults are overweight or obese. In ten years, the prevalence of obesity among Filipino adults almost doubled from 20.2% in 1998 to 37.2% in 2018. One out of four Filipino children aged 6-10 years old and 1 out of every 10 Filipino adolescents are overweight/obese as of 2018.
Knowing that obesity has become one of the most important public health concerns in the world, global healthcare company Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals (Philippines) Inc. is collaborating with other stakeholders in an obesity awareness media forum titled One Against Obesity which aims to change the public’s perspective on obesity, the stigma surrounding it, and how to care for people who are obese and overweight.
“There is more to obesity than what meets the eye. There are a number of environmental, physical, and psychological factors involved needing a multi-stakeholder approach,” says Mr. Cihan Serdar Kizilcik, Vice-President and General Manager of Novo Nordisk Philippines.
“First, we must understand that obesity is a critical health issue in the Philippines. We must be concerned for people with obesity not because of appearances but because of how this affects their overall wellbeing including risk for early death.”
Obesity leads to higher chances of acquiring diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and more. Obesity can therefore result to more deaths as a result of the numerous non-communicable diseases it is associated with.
One of the reasons why it has become difficult for people living with obesity to overcome this disease is the discrimination they suffer from society. Weight stigma refers to discriminating or negatively perceiving people based on their weight and size.
The consequence of weight stigma includes low self-esteem and depression. The fear of being stigmatized may lead to avoiding medical attention, disordered eating patterns such as binge eating, and increased levels of stress hormones which could impact cardiac health.
In more severe cases, weight stigma may even lead to suicidal tendencies.
Obesity is preventable and manageable but it takes a shift in perspective as well as empathy towards people living with obesity in order to make this fight successful.
The first line treatment for obesity is lifestyle therapy. This involves proper diet and exercise as well as counselling in order to help patients overcome obstacles in weight loss.
For those with a Body Mass Index above 27 and have obesity-related complications and 30 above with or without complications, doctors may also recommend anti-obesity medication in addition to lifestyle therapy. Weight loss surgery may also be an option for patients with a BMI of 40 and above and also have obesity-related complications.
To fight obesity, society must become more sensitive and empathic towards people living with obesity in order to encourage them to live better and to fight this disease. Healthier food and lifestyle choices need to become easier and more accessible options especially in cities, combined with empathetic support from family and society. Advances in pharmacotherapeutic options can also help augment lifestyle changes in achieving and maintaining weight goals for patients with obesity.