NGO urges government to increase efforts to curb obesity

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With 13% of adults worldwide considered to be obese, South African NGO Healthy Living Alliance (HEALA) says that government needs to increase efforts to curb the growing obesity numbers in the country.

The group says is calling for an increase in the country’s health promotion levy, which it says must be in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations.

Currently, the country charges 11% tax on drinks that contain sugar.

For years, studies have shown that South African waistlines are on the increase, with further studies showing a correlation between COVID-19 fatalities and obesity.

Kinza Hussain on the National Nutrition and Obesity:


“As the world renews its commitment to fighting the growing scourge of obesity, the South African population is facing the rapidly growing scourge of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart diseases. Healthy Living Alliance is calling for government, in particular Treasury, to urgently implement the 20% health promotion levy and the department of health to clearly
label unhealthy food,” says HEALA’s Lawrence Mbalati.

Choice of food

While lobby groups take on government, some have taken to the streets to fight out of control waistlines.

Communications specialist, Steve Mabona, has managed to move the scale from 120kg to 79kg.

Mabona says for him a change in food choices and running did the trick.

“I used to weigh over 120 kilograms and I felt that, look, I need to change my lifestyle because I had a heart attack scare. I decided that I must spend time in the gym and on the road running. I am an avid runner now. I’ve done two oceans and the comrades (marathons). I had to be disciplined in what I eat. I had to cut out the delicious food I used to be fond of. It’s doable if you are committed.”

Hypertension and diabetes

Whilst Mabona and others aim to keep a healthy lifestyle, according to Professor Karen Hofman from the Wits School of Public Health, hypertension and diabetes are costing the country a minimum of R13.2 billion per year.

“The risks associated with obesity in terms of costs include the following, on an annual basis at a minimum: it costs South Africa right now R13 billion for hypertension and diabetes alone as complications of obesity and this doesn’t include either cancer or heart disease. The total costs 10 years from now for all non-communicable diseases related to obesity, will be 7% of GDP. We haven’t taken into account the risks associated with obesity in the COVID-19 pandemic as far as both deaths and hospitalisation are concerned. One example is that two of three people aged 40 to 60 who are hospitalised with COVID-19, also have diabetes and hypertension,” says Hofman.

Uncontrolled diabetes a risk factor for COVID-19: