Study shows more Pinoys getting fatter

The Philippines is not only facing a ballooning population. Its people, figuratively speaking, are likewise “ballooning”, according to a new report.

“Among the six countries studied, the Philippines has the second-lowest obesity and overweight prevalence at 5.1 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively. But despite low prevalence rates, obesity has a strong impact in the Philippines due to the large number of obese persons in the country—18 million Filipinos are obese and overweight,” the newly released report, “Tackling obesity in Asean: Prevalence, impact and guidance on interventions” said.

The study was commissioned by Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN) and produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Aside from the Philippines, other members of the Asean included in the study were Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The report calls for “more concerted efforts by health authorities to tackle the problem of obesity so as to avoid strains on health-care systems.”

Last year, obesity cost the Philippines between $500 million and $1 billion, or equivalent to between 4 percent and 8 percent of its health-care spending. “This makes the country the fourth-highest spender for obesity-related problems,” the report said.

Indonesia is the highest spender at $2 billion to $4 billion followed by Malaysia at $1 billion to $2 billion and then Singapore at $400 million to $1 billion.

“These costs are due to a spike in incidence of related noncommunicable diseases [NCDs] such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and stroke, as well as an increased rate of absenteeism from work arising from illness and poor health,” the report said.

Apart from costs, obesity-related problems have far-reaching implications. Obesity reduces life spans by a weighted average of between 4 and 9 years across the six countries, the study found out.

“The Philippines is the worst-affected in terms of reduction of productive years among obese males—a significant eight to 12 years,” the report said. “This is followed by Malaysia at between six and 11 years, and Indonesia at between six and 10 years.”

On the brighter side: “The Philippines is the least-affected in terms of reduction of productive years among obese females—at between 0.3 and five years lost,” the report said.

Currently, the Philippines has an estimated 7 million children who still experience hunger and malnutrition.