Obesity is largely a lifestyle problem for most overweight people. It is a known major risk factor associated with several chronic health conditions that can impose a heavy health and financial toll on the individual, the family and society.
Hence, being able to combat obesity has short- and long-term benefits for the individual and the nation.
However, imposing "fat" taxes or other forms of "penalties" is a lot more complicated and much less effective than expected ("Combat obesity with 'fat' tax" by Dr Edmund Lam; last Tuesday and "Subsidise healthy food instead" by Dr Jeremy Lim; last Thursday).
One good way to prevent obesity is to educate people, particularly the young.
This is likely to be more effective and sustainable, because it brings about a natural self-committed change in lifestyle, rather than a forced action that may not last.
Education about healthy lifestyles, including the knowledge on how to make the right choices about food, nutrition and physical activity, can steer people in the right direction regardless of the many "bad" choices available to them.
So, the recommendation by Dr Luke Ho Boon Choong about inculcating the importance of proper nutrition and exercise in children and their parents is an important positive step ("Where do we draw the line?"; last Thursday).
In addition, we need to also ensure that good, nutritious food and facilities for common sports and physical activities are affordable and accessible to the majority of the population, even to those in the lower socio-economic strata.
This is one reason why obesity in the United States is more prevalent in the lower socio-economic groups, as the cheap food available to them is often high in calories and low in nutrient content.
Ho Ting Fei (Dr)
This article was published on April 7 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.