A health problem in the UAE and the world today, is obesity. We find it in large proportions. The UK and other countries also suffer from this disease. There are many causes of obesity and it affects people locally in the UAE , the UK and the rest of the world. The incidence of obesity is a major problem with many serious effects for the individual and the countries of the UAE , the UK and the world. This study will highlight the problem in the UAE and the UK just to show that the UAE is not the only one afflicted by obesity.
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Obesity -what is it?
The problem of obesity is a major one in today’s society, and it is estimated that more than 1 billion people are being classified as obese worldwide .Obesity is an increase in fatty tissue of the body and around organs, and it can cause a variety of bad health problems. Health problems include emotional as well as physical problems, for example, feelings of inferiority, and low self esteem due to an obese look. For children, name-calling, such as “tubby”, “fatty”, “elephant”, or others, as well as bullying from friends can occur. Physical problems are many, and include ones such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM), where the body can no longer respond to insulin, also happens. This influences the control of blood sugar levels which can rise and fall. In the UAE we have high numbers of diabetes sufferers (Global Arab Network 2010).Estimates show that by 2025, about 300 million people are expected to suffer from diabetes related to obesity. This number is to be double that of 1998 (University Edinburgh).
Obesity is more than just having more weight or being overweight. It is an accumulation of extra body fat which puts the obese (overweight) person’s health at risk, in the form of heart disease and diabetes (Sofsian). Body mass index (BMI) is used by doctors to find out if a person is obese. BMI correlates with height: A normal range is said to be 18.5-25; overweight is 25-30 and a BMI over 30 is considered to be obese (Henderson; Patient UK).
Obesity in the UAE:
There are three main causes of obesity in the UAE , namely diet, lifestyle and education. Firstly, diet is seen as one of the most important causes. The dietary (food) intake of most young Emiratis revolve around foods of a high carbohydrate and high fat content such as deep-fried chicken, French fries, burgers and pizzas. Many stores such as KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Burger King are well-known and visited on a daily basis. This type of food is eaten more now than in the past due to the UAE having become wealthy after the discovery of oil (ADMC). Stevens (2006), reports that “â€¦a boom in economic development and financial growth for all families in a region did not always come with improved health for the people who lived there. Sometimes that opposite could occur with the new found wealth going into junk food and too much of it”.
Next, the lifestyle of the Emiratis is another reason for obesity. Emiratis of today are less active and doing easier jobs such as desk-work, than in the past when they had to perform physical tasks. Today there is a big number of expatriate workers who do most jobs. Also, there is a general lack of exercise among young and old, male and female . This is mostly due to the weather and a lack of interest in sport or exercise. The healthy few, are mostly those who play football or other sports. Children are mostly found playing computer games in the home and eating too much. More money also means more to spend on food, relaxation and eating out. In some cases, married life also cuts back on exercise and contributes to weight-gain (ADMC).
Thirdly, a lack of knowledge about healthy eating is another cause. There is an idea that the more money a country has, the more food they consume irrespective of the consequences of wrong-eating. Another factor is that there is a general lack of intervention from parents in terms of children’s eating habits and nutritional values. Parents do not stop children from eating wrongly and sometimes give children too many snacks and sweets. An awareness of healthy dietary requirements is also absent (ADMC; Sify 2010; Stevens 2006;Yaqoob 2009 ).
These show that more than 60% of Emirati nationals are overweight and this figure is growing. The World Health Organization (WHO) released the following statistics for 2009:39.9% women are obese, 7th highest in the world and the men 25.6% at the 9th highest. Children in the UAE are also obese and this figure is growing (AMEinfo; Sify 2010; Yaqoob, 2009).
Obesity in the UK is mainly caused by more or less the same factors as in the UAE- overeating; eating the wrong foods; little or no physical exercise/ activity and inheritance. It is shown that about 2 in 5 adults are overweight and a further 1 in 5 are obese (NeLM;Patient UK). According to government statistics 1 in 4 men and 1in 3 women are overweight- 24% for women and 23% for men; however, the rate of men being obese is increasing and at this rate it is estimated that by 2010 about 6.6 million men and about 6 million women will be obese. About 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 15 are overweight (Henderson; IOTF; Lean; Sofsian).The UK is an old developed country and it is long since people moved away from hard physical work. The average UK life is a sedentary one with easier jobs and lots of TV viewing and little exercise. Also, children are less active and stay indoors mostly to play computer games.
Individuals and the country are affected in many different ways. The biggest effect of obesity on the individual is that of health risks. Heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis, to name a few, are prevalent among overweight people. Other problems due to obesity are breathing problems, bad knee joints and difficulty walking (Henderson; Sofsian, 2007).
Due to these health concerns the individual’s quality of life drops to a low. Obese people can lose confidence and suffer psychologically- this goes for grown-ups and children (Henderson). A result of this could be depression, mood swings, yo-yo dieting, eating disorders like bingeing and withdrawal symptoms (Patient UK;Yaqoob, 2009). The country as a whole can suffer in the form of big numbers of unhealthy citizens in need of medical care. This could put strain on the government health budget in the form of medical-care, heart- transplants and medication. Sick and unhealthy workers are less productive and this leads to a loss of income for companies and job losses for these workers(Henderson). These workers might influence their children badly with eating habits and lifestyle because they are bad role-models (Ameinfo,2009).
Gastric-banding in the UAE to counter Obesity:
What is Gastric-banding, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve?
Gastric banding is an operation performed under general anesthesia. In this procedure, the surgeon places an adjustable band around the top part of the stomach. It creates a small pouch to hold food. The procedure is done by means of key-hole surgery (laparoscope). Food coming into the pouch is held and let through slowly into the stomach, so the person feels fuller sooner and for a longer time and so does not overeat. This is a safe procedure for those who are drastically overweight and cannot seem to eat less (virtualmedicalcentre 2010).
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In gastric bypass a step is taken to make the stomach smaller. The surgeon will use staples to divide the stomach into a small upper section and a larger bottom section. The top part of the stomach (called the pouch) is where the food consumed, will go. It holds only a small amount of food. The second step is the bypass. The surgeon will connect a part of the small intestine, called the jejunum, to a small hole in the pouch. The jejunum is farther down from where the stomach normally attaches to the small intestine. Food eaten will now move from the pouch into this new opening into the small intestine. Food now bypasses the lower part of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine, and so the body will absorb less calories (Lee 2009).
In a gastric sleeve operation, up to 80 % of the stomach is removed. The remaining portion of the stomach is pinned together, creating a substantially smaller digestive tract (Shaheen 2009).
Shaheen (2009) reports that doctors are citing increases of up to 500 % in the number of people turning making use of gastric surgery in trying to lose weight and are even operating on patients as young as 12.This operation is not normally performed on younger than 16 years old, but in this case there was no alternative to curb the obesity.
Other Programmes to counter Obesity
In the UAE and the UK the governments have started with programmes to lessen obesity and cut back on the numbers of people suffering from it and dying from the results of obesity (Lean, 2006; Yaqoob,2009). Doctors and health practitioners are trying and investigating numerous ways in which to combat obesity (Pittler & Ernst 2005).
According to Arnold (2009), there are ways and means to overcome the problems of obesity- permanent lifestyle changes in terms of what is eaten, how much is eaten, eating manners and exercise levels. The British Medical Association agrees with the International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) that, ‘â€¦interventions at the family and school level need to be matched by changes in the social and cultural context so that the benefits can be sustained and enhanced’ (BMA, 2005). This means that there should be good efforts and progress made by the medical workers, teachers, doctors, parents, food manufacturers, and media to help with this effort (Yaqoob,2009). An idea even arose to levy a tax on sweet drinks to discourage consumption (New Scientist, 2009). Also, governmental town planners, architects, politicians and legislators should all play a role to build a better and a healthier society (BMA 2005; Yaqoob, 2009).
Change 4 Life was started in the UK to highlight child obesity. Their slogan is: “Eat well, Move More, Live Longer”. It focuses on reducing TV, video games and indoor play and encourages more outdoor play, movement and sports activities (Callaghan, 2009).
In the UAE the focus is also on exercise and diet ( McMeans 2008 ; Zawya,2009).At a seminar in Dubai, titled “Fat Truth” organized by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, Dr Mariam Mattar, general manager of Community Development Authority, said that “In our society, there is an exaggerated focus on feeding children, regardless of their nutritional requirements”. In order to control and change the growing number of obese children in the UAE, social attitudes had to change first, according to a senior community doctor and others (Ameinfo,2009; Sify 2010).Schools and families should be encouraged to get children to exercise more and eat better (Baxter 2009).
Obesity is not confined to the UAE and the UK alone -it is a world-wide problem. Many of the causes and effects for the UAE and the UK , as well as other countries are mostly similar. People are suffering from obesity in both countries and this is causing extreme health problems, and this puts strain on governmental health services. The problem of obesity has been identified and both countries are addressing these in the form of health education, lifestyle changes and exercise initiatives.
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