The Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN) on Tuesday reported that the Philippines has the second lowest obesity and overweight prevalence compared to its regional neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
In a study commissioned by ARoFIIN through The Economist Intelligence Unit, the Philippines in 2014 recorded an obesity prevalence of 5.1 percent, with 23.6 percent of Filipino adults being overweight and with 24 percent increase between 2010 and 2014.
The study noted that the Philippines was the fourth-highest spender for obesity-related problems, amounting to between four and eight percent of its health care spending.
This amount was said to have been the result of a spike in incidence of related non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and stroke, as well as an increased rate of absenteeism from work arising from illness and poor health.
Among all sampled countries, the Philippines has been affected the worst in terms of reduction in productive years among obese males with eight to 12 years lost.
Obese females were least affected with only 0.3 to 5 years lost.
While obesity is recognized as a health issue in the country, the Philippines is more focused on addressing the problem of malnutrition, with an estimated seven million children who still experience hunger and malnutrition.
Bruno Kistner, ARoFIIN secretary, said the public and private sectors should confer and discuss solutions to the growing obesity epidemic in the country.
“We have no golden bullet yet, we don’t know what exactly the solution in the Philippines is, but we say as ARoFIIN say is that the public and the private sector should sit together and say what can we do together in order to establish actions and activities that fight obesity in the Philippines,” Kistner added.
“Well, for example, if you look at the food industry, the food industry is a competitive environment, so they need to move, be flexible and adjust. For example, a lot of food companies now produce no-sugar products, there’s a huge food company [that has]actually now managed to reduce the sugar content in chocolate by 40 percent. They reduced portion sizes, they reduced fat, there’s quite a lot happening,” he said
The report suggested that local governments should identify specific problem areas in which they can step in with initiatives to increase the level of physical activity.
ARoFIIN is a public-private partnership set up to tackle issues related to obesity, malnutrition and non-communicable diseases.