Tag Archives: public health

Obesity and Health Disparities

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Recently, some of the top researchers in the world on nutrition, obesity, and health met for a cutting edge forum in London. Although many research perspectives were presented, there was one clear consensus: as long as we treat obesity as a personal responsibility issue, its prevalence is unlikely to decline. This is in part because instead of viewing obesity as a societal challenge, the individual choice bias dominates. It’s steeped with misunderstanding and blame, and it’s everywhere. People are simply told to eat healthy and exercise. There have been no results that have shown this approach to be effective, globally.

The conclusion of the summit, across disciplines: This global and growing problem has to be addressed as a public health concern NOT a moral judgment.

Obesity is a complex, chronic, and relapsing disease that affects every aspect of an individual’s life, health and physiology, and is associated with an increased risk for over 250 diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and dementia. In addition, health disparities contribute to a disproportionate burden of disease in marginalized communities.

In my own work with patients, I just came across a series of recent epidemiological reports on South Asian communities. South Asians are genetically predisposed to diabetes. That is over two billion people. Recent research indicates that it’s not just genetics, but a lengthy history of famines and food deprivation. Over a third of famines occurred under British colonization, and over 60 million Indians died from starvation (records minimize). Prolonged, generational food insecurity affected how South Asians store fat and process sugar.

Clearly, the recent forum in London on obesity and nutrition indicates that taking a global and historical perspective is essential for treatment that works. Because right now it doesn’t.

Also see, “Colonization Might Be Responsible for Your Diabetes.

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