The World Health Organization reports that Lebanon is among nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) with the highest obesity rates in the world. In an attempt to shed light on this issue and to change these alarming statistics, his excellency Dr. Jamil Jabak launched a national campaign against obesity on Wednesday, July 31st.
A press conference was given by Dr. Jabak on Wednesday to introduce the campaign and explain the importance of recognizing obesity as a disease and encouraging those who suffer from it, to seek out specialized treatment.
He elaborated on the present and future actions of the campaign, which include, but are not limited to, giving out explanatory brochures, conducting BMI tests across Lebanon, and offering advisory services on obesity.
From the Lebanese Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Lipids, campaign coordinator Dr. Akram Shatti exposed some reasons for this alarming increase in rates in Lebanon. First of all, the number of junk food restaurants has expanded uncontrollably in the country with people increasing the consumption of processed fat and its derivatives.
A change in lifestyle among the Lebanese people is also a relevant cause. In recent years, everyone sits still for many more hours, on their computers for example. People have switched to media usage for entertainment, cutting off on physical movements and exercises.
Certain parenting behaviors also play a role in increasing obesity among children. Dr. Jabak pinpoints the usage of candies as rewards, for instance, leading the children towards unhealthy food preferences in the long term. Thus the importance of awareness campaigns to modify some pre-existing habits that lead to unhealthy future choices.
This is not the first time that this topic is tackled in Lebanon. Last year, the Ministry of Health established a national day to combat childhood obesity. On that day, children were given ten tips to lead a healthy life.
Among these tips were the importance of sleeping a proper amount of hours and exercising daily. Others were related to drinking enough water, eating fruits and grains, and spending less time watching television.
Dr. Nahla Hawla, a Professor of Nutrition at AUB and President of the Lebanese Nutrition Association, claims that this issue is not the responsibility of one person only but that of an entire community.
Everyone including parents, teachers, and students should unite forces to make Lebanon an obesity-free country.