Here are the credits of a very timely report with five primary authors and 28 expert consultants from around the world, which looks at global childhood obesity from some angles that are not often considered:
With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in collaboration with WHO/Europe’s Behavioral and Cultural Insights Unit, the Vanderbilt Cultural Contexts of Health and Wellbeing Initiative uses cultural insights to help improve public health policy and healthcare delivery.
This 52-page document dives into various aspects of a problem that seems all too familiar. At the same time, it holds some lesser-known secrets whose exploration could make a significant difference. Over the last 40-plus years, “the prevalence of children classified as overweight or living with obesity based on BMI increased more than four-fold, from 4% to 18% globally.”
And yet, many professionals in the field now believe that Body Mass Index is not a good predictor of metabolic health for the individual. Japanese authorities have demoted BMI to only one risk factor among several. Since 2008, the “Metabo-Law” has required the waistlines of all adults over 40 and under 74 years of age should be measured annually. If the number does not fall within strict parameters, the people are referred to programs designed to help.
As of 2022, Japan is one of the 10 least obese countries in the world, with only less than 5% of its adults being defined as obese.
Heart of the matter
The core proposition of cultural awareness goes like this:
[R]ather than focusing on particular nutrients, acknowledge food as embedded in cultural contexts, allowing for creative adaptation to local circumstances…
It is hoped that consensus may emerge, regarding “the need to look beyond individual choices to address upstream cultural, commercial, and structural factors that produce obesogenic environments…” Cultural traditions are very stubborn, and if their energy and creativity can be captured:
We show how public health programs can work with, not against, cultural traditions and norms — harnessing local creativity to change nutritional outcomes.
Some societal norms probably have very little to do with culture or tradition, and increasing numbers of thoughtful individuals turn against the norms that have become destructive. Many of the earth’s people agree that children need to be protected from the marketing of ultra-processed foods with ultra-low nutritional value.
In South Africa, for example, the administration and the food corporations have worked out some limits and restrictions. In Mexico, reducing soda consumption is a major goal. Labeling guidelines and taxation are employed, along with regulations about marketing to children in school environments.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Reframing Childhood Obesity: Cultural Insights on Nutrition, Weight, and Food Systems,” Vanderbilt.edu, 2022
Source: “Obesity Rates by Country 2022,” WorldPopulationReview.com, undated
Image by Mark Licht/CC BY 2.0