Last year, the country was identified as one of the three fattest nations in the world in research conducted by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
According to the health department’s Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Obesity initiative, government will start campaigning for laws imposing a sugar and fat tax. It also wants to develop new rules for sugar and fat content in processed food, to improve food labelling, get fast-food outlets to offer healthy meals, draft guidelines for school tuck shops and prevent the display of sweets at store checkout points.
Motsoaledi said, “We have set ourselves ambitious but achievable plans with synergised and consistent effort.” He said central to the anti-obesity strategy was the realisation that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure were a threat to the physical and mental health of the population. He attributed this to factors such as poverty, uneven distribution of wealth and lack of education, to name a few.
Deputy health minister Joe Phaahla said obesity’s effects and costs impacted individuals, families, communities and the health service. “Most citizens eat less fruits and vegetables, and more fat and sugar containing foods,” said Phaahla.
Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga pledged support for the plan. “A study by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa stated that if schools provided a healthy breakfast and lunch, the nutritional status of pupils would markedly improve,” said Motshekga.
The latest National Income Dynamics Study stated that 33 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the country over the age of 15 were obese. The highest percentage of them were in cities, with 42 percent of them being women. Researchers attributed this to insufficient physical activity, lack of knowledge, poor eating habits learned in childhood and a poor diet.