World Obesity Day: Raising awareness about the economic and health toll of obesity in Egypt

Ingy Deif, Tuesday 8 Mar 2022

A panel of private sector and academic stakeholders in Egypt marked World Obesity Day — celebrated on 4 March every year — with a press conference under the title ‘Obesity: The real pandemic.’

World Obesity Day conference in Egypt

The conference addressed the problem of obesity based on statistics made in 2021 and shed light on the latest breakthroughs in treatments and methods of curbing weight gain, especially among women and children.

The conference also reviewed recent studies on the impacts of the disease on Egyptian society’s health, economy, and social well-being.

One of the main highlights of the conference was a discussion on the prevalence and causes of overweight among Egyptian adolescents and the effects of obesity on women’s health

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the definition of obesity is the accumulation of excess fat that may impair health.

At the onset of the discussion, Dr. Rasha Tarif — the head of the Pediatric Obesity Unit at Ain Shams University — shed light on studies in Egypt regarding obesity that stated that more than a third of children and adolescents surveyed were overweight or obese, with roughly two million adolescents expected to be morbidly obese within the next three years.

Tarif added that this leads to further complications, like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, and fatty liver diseases.

“The prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents reached 185 million and is expected to reach 254 million by 2030, as per the statistics from the World Obesity Federation in 2021, putting into consideration that the percentages are higher in those with a family history of obesity,” she added.

Dr. Amr Abdel-Moneim — a professor of anaesthesia at the Faculty of Medicine of Cairo University — stated that one of the causes of obesity is an unhealthy lifestyle that includes eating at the wrong time, insufficient sleeping, eating high carbohydrates, and living a sedentary life.

Abdel-Moneim noted that Egypt has set nine national goals to combat non-communicable diseases, which include obesity.

He added that these goals aim to encourage people to “eat less and move more,” urging healthcare providers to focus on a patient’s comprehensive health management rather than simply their weight in order to address the fundamental causes of obesity.

The problem of obesity among Egyptian women was addressed by Dr. Ines Shaltout, a professor of internal medicine and diabetes at Cairo University.

“Being overweight or obese raises the relative risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease in females. Females living with obesity are more prone to suffering from lower back discomfort and osteoporosis, and it has a detrimental impact on all contraceptive techniques and fertility,” Shaltout said.

“The most recent statistics indicate a relationship between obesity and depression in females and that 26% of non-pregnant women between the ages of 20 and 39 are overweight, and 29 percent are obese. The 100 Million Health Initiative revealed that 49.5% of Egyptian females are suffering from obesity.”

During the conference, Novo Nordisk Egypt, a subsidiary of the multinational pharmaceutical company, discussed its efforts to raise awareness among 10,000 people living with obesity in 2021.

Moreover, they outlined the current month’s strategy, which aims to raise the awareness of 5,000 additional obese individuals as well as increase the number of awareness initiatives to reach 20,000 people by the end of 2022.

Dr. Ibrahim El-Ebrashy, a professor of internal medicine, diabetes, and endocrinology at Cairo University, further elaborated on the economic cost of the problem on society.

“The latest studies done in Egypt confirm that the cost of treating obesity related problems in 2020 was EGP 62 billion. Moreover, mortality rates have reached 19 percent, which is considered a real risk to people’s lives. According to global surveys, obesity accounts for 41 million deaths annually,” El-Ebrashy concluded.

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