In many parts of Africa, if you’re obese, people will say ‘you look healthy’”. Culture and perceptions matter in the fight against obesity across the continent, said Dr Jean-Claude Mbanya at an event organised by World Obesity Federation .
Eating habits have changed dramatically and led to a more calorific diet across the continent. Dr Mbanya pointed out the evolution of nutrition, in quantity and quality. “When we were young, we had rice once a year at Christmas.” He said. With an increased use of fat, “cooking methods have also changed.”
Obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases, including diabetes. Non-health sectors (education, retail, etc.) need to be part of the fight, said Francesco Branca from World Health Organization.
The influence on culture on obesity perceptions in Africa is clearly a huge issue that needs to be investigated further. Ultimately intervention on obesity will take the work of committed advocated who more than just having information, address obesity through a cultural lens as well putting the people at the center of advocacy and education on obesity in Africa.