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Fighting fat: The action must shift to rural areas now

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Published: May 11, 2019 1:54:13 AM

As a study published in Nature shows, the action must shift to rural areas now.

Average rise in BMI for rural men was 2.6 kg/m2, and for women 2.5 kg/m2.

Rural obesity is driving the global obesity epidemic, posits a paper published in Nature. The study conducted by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration challenge the popular belief that, with wealth concentration in urban areas, these are the major contributors to global obesity. The research, using Body Mass Index (BMI) data, bases its findings on reports that cover around 30 years of data (1985-2017). The BMI data covers nearly 112 million adults from 200 countries. The data reveals that the BMI levels rose by an average of 2.2 kg/m2 for men and 2 kg/m2 for women resulting in each person becoming 5-6 kg heavier. This rise has mainly been occured in the rural areas.

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The report shows that the BMI in higher income countries’ rural areas was always high as compared to the urban areas. However, while the rural areas in low-and middle-income countries usually had it low, over the last 30 years, it has increased tremendously. The report states that this increase has been due to higher incomes, availability of transport and a general transition from labour-intensive work like agriculture to other forms of work. Even in agriculture, mechanisation has subsitituted human labour use. All these factors and the spread of MNCs producing processed, low-nutritional value snacks have contributed to rising obesity. In India, the average BMI for women went up by 2.4 kg/m2 (to 22.1 kg/m2) in 2017 from 19.7 kg/m2 in 1985. Average rise in BMI for rural men was 2.6 kg/m2, and for women 2.5 kg/m2. The research shows that health interventions in rural areas need to also consider obesity as a major issue; this can be tamed if a campaign against poor-quality, low nutritional value diets are made a part of the plant to fight malnourishment. Also, public health professionals need to ensure that children in rural areas, have access to and awareness of high-quality nutrition as household incomes go up and lifestyles changes begin to occur.

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