Rising obesity in China – The tragedy to be aware of.
Returning to China in 2017 after being absent for 1.5 years, I realized that a lot has changed – for example the new functions of WeChat.
One of the rather shocking discoveries I made, is that more and more Chinese become obese. Walking down the street, you see more and more … not skinny Chinese – unlike before. In fact, China has the largest overweight population in the world: 10.8% of the men and 14.9% of Chinese women, put into other numbers, 43 million men and 46 million women, are overweight. For children this rate is even higher with 23% of boys and 14% of girls being overweight.
This is no wonder, considering that urban population is unceasingly growing and more and more Chinese are interested in international travel and also food and rising incomes.
China is actually one of the countries with a very high rate of fast food restaurants like MC Donald’s, Burger King, KFC or Starbucks next to their local fast food restaurants.
But not only the fact that fast food restaurants are rising is causing increasing obesity rates, but also the lack of an active and healthy lifestyle. Chinese specialists say that sport in China hasn’t been funded enough for young Chinese to indulge in physical exercise. Furthermore, the country needs about 4 million nutritionists, but has only about 10.000 to tackle the problem of obesity.
Tackling this problem, the Chinese government has worked out a plan called “Healthy China 2030” aiming to make “China healthy again” in the next 13 years. The plan, which was introduced last October, includes health education in the school and promotions of “health as a habit”. It aims to increase life expectancy by four years to 79.
There have been several other measures in order to encourage the population to exercise more. For instance, the government funded more playgrounds or ordered schools to make the children exercise for an hour each day. This has been mostly dropped though, because the parents considered sport as a “waste of time”, the time was better used studying. Chinese government furthermore tried to implement a program called “Eat Smart at School” which has been introduced before in Hong Kong. It’s a program designed for primary schools for kids to eat healthier during lunch time. Most primary schools however, were not able to follow through due to tight finances. Yet another measure is to send TV programs and Radio shows discussing obesity and it effects and possible diseases (such as the rising rate of diabetes in China) and informing the population on how to eat healthier.
If the plans will actually bring any success is yet unknown as it is too early to draw any conclusions. Health experts however, think that several other measures should be added such as regulatory and fiscal reforms on HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) such as fizzy beverages or pre-packaged food.
Let’s see what these programs and incentives from the government will manage to do! What do you think are other possible reasons for rising obesity in China? What are you doing in order to stay fit and healthy in China?