May 29, 2023
The EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC), an advocacy organization representing the interests of European firms operating in Southeast Asia, recently produced a paper addressing the increasing prevalence of obesity in Southeast Asia in collaboration with Novo Nordisk Southeast Asia.
“Battling Obesity in ASEAN” provides emphasis on the major health consequences, economic effects, and other unexpected costs of obesity. It also makes recommendations on the systemic actions that are required to make a positive effect in the lives of persons who are obese.
The report proposes the implementation of the ROOTS framework 1, which intends to address the multiple causes of obesity and define fundamental activities for the government, commercial sector, civil society, healthcare professionals, and individuals to manage obesity.
Beyond the ROOTS framework, EU-ABC identified regional areas for improvement, such as training healthcare professionals and strengthening primary care facilities, and outlined actionable steps in the report for a whole-of-society approach to preventing, diagnosing, treating, and monitoring obesity .
Obesity is a complex disease
The report also seeks to recognize obesity as a disease that must be evaluated and developed preventive methods across the life course and evidence-based therapy, as well as strengthening the healthcare system to manage obesity through its absorption into primary and secondary care.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers obesity as a complex and chronic disease caused by a variety of factors such as genetics, psychosocial factors, and the obesogenic environment. Obesity has long been seen as a risk factor for other chronic diseases or a dietary issue, despite the fact that it is a complex non-communicable disease.
Moreover, obesity can be a huge economic and healthcare system burden if there is no effective treatment because it is linked to more than 200 other chronic diseases and morbidities, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. A major public health issue in Southeast Asia
Rising prevalence of obesity in Southeast Asia
In Southeast Asia, where over 52.4 million people and 21 million children and adolescents are expected to be obese by 2030, obesity is a major public health concern.
Through the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda, which outlines recommendations to create a healthy, compassionate, and sustainable ASEAN society, ASEAN Member States are dedicated to preventing and managing chronic diseases, including obesity. While the ASEAN Member States have implemented policies to encourage a healthy diet and regular exercise, more comprehensive, egalitarian, and person-centered prevention and treatment strategies are required to address the multifactorial nature of obesity.
In response to the report, Chris Humphrey, Executive Director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, stated that in order to effectively combat obesity in ASEAN, it is first necessary to acknowledge it as a chronic, complex disease rather than just viewing it as a Dietary problems brought on by unhealthy lifestyle choices. As a result, we are moving away from the idea that people who are obese are to blame for their condition and toward the understanding that obesity is a chronic disease that needs a multifaceted approach, including long-term care and prevention. A collaborative strategy including various stakeholders, including governments, corporations, and healthcare experts, is required for a region as diverse as ASEAN. Obesity is an urgent public health issue that requires prompt attention and action, Dr. Vinay Prusty, Senior Director at Novo Nordisk Southeast Asia, noted. In order to further conversations about raising the level of care for Southeast Asians who are obese, Novo Nordisk is able to support the development of this vital report for the region.