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Eating Our Way to the Grave: The Obesity Epidemic in Liberia

In 2010 the problem of obesity became a bigger public-health problem than world hunger, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. Obesity, defined by the World Health Organization as “an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health” has more than doubled worldwide in the past twenty years. More than 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight, and of these, 600 million are obese. The people of the world are becoming bigger, and the Republic of Liberia is no different.

Obesity in Liberia

The average male and female bodies have altered significantly in the past couple of decades. In Liberia, 15.9 percent of males and 29.5% of females are considered overweight, and 3% of males and 11.4% of females are overweight. Particularly among females, the prevalence of obesity grew substantially from 3.8% in 1995. With the increase of obesity, there has also been an increased risk for other related diseases such as chronic illnesses, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

Obesity is concentrated more in urban cities, and can be attributed to the lack of nutrients in the traditional diet. Our diet is heavy in starch, and high-fat, while high-sugar fast foods and fizzy drinks are in. Since many of the unhealthy foods are cheaper, they are more enticing and people are trading essential nutrients for calories. Also in urban areas, there is less walking and other athletic activities throughout the day which is preventing many people from working off the calories.

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What The Government is Doing to Help

The Republic of Liberia joined the SUN movement on February 3rd, 2014 with a letter of commitment from HE Walter T. Gwenigale, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. At this point, Liberia identified nutrition as a national priority and made it integral for programs to tackle the issue. Therefore, many government programs are working to make it easier to gain access to healthier foods, so that the people of Liberia can get their essential nutrients for a good price.

What You Can Do to Help

Everyone can help in the effort towards a healthier Liberia. You can become a local leader in your community and set up exercise programs to encourage people to get out there and move. If exercise isn’t your thing, you can set up healthy food drives, or establish nutrition groups to help educate adults and children on what they need to add to or remove from their diet. You can make a difference in your community and help Liberia tackle its nationwide problem of obesity.

BY Jane Sandwood

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