Obesity: a silent killer
When Fatinah Namubiru gave birth to her second daughter, Firdausi Katamba, at Kibuli hospital nine years ago, her life became partially healed. She had lost her first born, who had succumbed to respiratory failure caused by obesity.
Her happiness, however, was short-lived. Doctors whispered to her that her newly born baby also had the same condition which killed the first one – obesity.
Namubiru, a resident of Kireka Bira village, Busiro Sub County, Wakiso district, is currently fighting to make sure that her daughter survives and leads a happy life.
“Like her elder sister, she also weighed five kilograms at birth. To deliver, I was operated due to her size,” Namubiru said.
Following the doctor’s advice, Namubiru had to keep away some foods from her daughter’s menu purposely to save her.
“We stopped the girl from taking milk and processed foods. We also engaged her in physical health programmes. We don’t spend more than three months without taking her for medical check up,” she explains.
She said that the whole family is working tirelessly to engage the girl in practical health activities as instructed by doctors to prevent implications which come with overweight and obesity.
“As I speak, she is normal and she can do all house chores. Physicians told us that her obesity is genetic condition. Her father, aunts and other relatives are very fat,” she said.
Dr. Warren Tumwine, a physician at Kampala Medical Chambers Hospital said that obesity among children is mainly a result of consuming processed foods and juices which they take to schools.
“Those in boarding schools are even at a higher risk as some of them have processed foods to take them throughout the term and schools may not be so keen on ensuring that all drinks and food brought by their students is healthy,” he said
What is obesity?
Dr. Tumwine said that someone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more is generally considered to be obese. BMI is got through dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of his or her height (in metres).
A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight and therefore abnormal. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for a number of chronic diseases.
Dr. Tumwine said obesity is in three groups: central obesity, truncal obesity and morbid obesity.
He noted that obesity is not a disease but a medical condition which can lead to real diseases if immediate actions are not taken.
Diseases associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, stroke, heart diseases, skin infections, cancer of the colon, prostate cancer, high blood pressure, impotence in men, heart attack, generalised body weakness and myocarbial infection.
“You just have to understand that obesity can be in beats for examples around the fingers, stomach, legs and it is all about the politics of food. There are no obese people in Karamoaja. The obese ones are in Kampala and there are a number of reasons to explain this,” he said
Dr Tumwine added that obesity is spread through all age groups and it is more common among elites, especially women and children.
Dr Gerald Mutungi, the commissioner of Non Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health said that the international survey that was done in 2014 indicates that 14.5 percent of Ugandan adults were overweight.
He said that the figures were worse in urban areas with 22.6 percent and 12.6 percent in rural areas.
“It is worst in women because 19.5 percent of women are overweight compared to 9.5 percent of the men,” he said.
Dr. Twaha Kisozi, a physician at Kibuli Hospital said that in 2016, the prevalence of obesity among Ugandans was 5.88 percent. This fell from the 16.67 percent that was recorded in 1998.
He notes that when the standards of living grow figures increase.
A new World Bank report, titled: Health and Economic Consequences of an Impending Global Challenge, launched in February 2020, indicates that since 1975 obesity has nearly tripled and now accounts for 4 million deaths worldwide every year.
Causes of Obesity
Dr. Quraish Golooba, a nutritionist at Case Medical Centre in Kampala said that some of the causes of obesity include social, economic, genetic, income, education and level of deprivation.
“Education exposes you to different foods. Someone who is deep in the village does not think about chips, fried chicken among others unlike elites. There are also peer groups which can also expose you to such foods,” he said
“You buy a car, it drops you to the house, you sit for some good hours in the office, in the evening you use lifts to get out, at your destination the vehicle drops you in the garage, you only walk within your room that is dangerous!” He added.
Symptoms of Obesity
Dr. Kisozi says people with obesity always feel heavy, walk small distances, feel tired and keep increasing in size. They also snore, and when they wake up, they feel as if they did not sleep.
He said that people with big stomachs have higher chances of becoming obese.
Why obesity is on the increase
Dr Kisozi said that some people with the disease have failed to focus on what they should do like controlling their nutrition and undertaking physical activity.
What should be done to control Obesity?
Dr. Kisozi said that things that stimulate too much appetite should be limited while living an active life is also helpful.
“If your child has too much weight you can set achievable goals with health practitioners and if he or she achieves such goals, you can reward them but don’t reward them with chips and chicken,” he said.
Patients are encouraged to often consult the nutritionists, do their physical activities with physiotherapists, seek counselling and also get treatment by removing excess fats.
Impact of Obesity on national economies
Obesity has a major impact on national economies and on human capital by reducing productivity and life expectancy and increasing disability and health care costs.
In the February report, the World Bank projects that it will cost USD 7tn to treat all obesity patients in the next 15 years in developing countries.