‘Intelligent, Focused’ Policies Needed To Address Obesity In Developing Countries

The Conversation: Developing countries could get sick before they get rich. Policy can help
Asit K. Biswas, distinguished visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore; and Kris Hartley, lecturer at Cornell University

“…Residents of developing nation cities are increasingly susceptible to obesity, particularly amid the megatrends of urbanization, globalization, and industrialization of food supply. … As rural dwellers move to urban areas, easy access to cheap and convenient processed foods lures them into unhealthy diets. This crisis will test the political resolve of governments that have historically focused on ending hunger. These governments must understand that the factors making cities convenient and productive also make their residents prone to obesity. Intelligent, focused policies are needed to effectively manage this emerging crisis. … Policies related to taxation, urban design, education and awareness, and the promotion of localized food systems may help control obesity at a lower cost than eventual medical treatment for an aging and increasingly overweight population. … Combining controls on unhealthy foods with policies that incentivize healthy eating and active lifestyles constitute a promising response to rising obesity rates. Addressing public health is a policy mandate for developing countries from both an economic and social point of view. To paraphrase the recent Global Nutrition Report, addressing obesity is a global imperative for releasing the brakes on development” (12/5).

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