Fighting obesity as a nation

The United States, Australia and other countries are acknowledging that obesity is an epidemic that is affecting the health of their citizens ("US food labelling overhaul to fight obesity"; last Saturday).

Obesity is contributing to an alarming increase in hypertension, diabetes and various chronic diseases among younger people.

Many years back, doctors hardly saw patients in their 40s or early 50s succumbing to stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular diseases. But such events are no longer uncommon.

There may be some who are obese because of genetic factors, but for many, obesity is caused by unhealthy diets and lack of exercise.

Addressing the problem is easier said than done.

Although overhauling food labelling is a step in the right direction, it may not do much good if people do not recognise obesity as a potential danger to their long-term health and have no intention of combating it at a personal level, and as a society and nation.

We need to take this battle to the nation as a whole, beginning with the younger generation.

Parents, advertisers, food handlers, caterers and restaurants need to get in on the act, and a "gentle" application of the law may be necessary.

The Health Promotion Board has been doing a good job in spreading the healthy lifestyle message, but much more can be done in implementing the steps needed to fight obesity.

Imagine the benefits of good health for the nation and the tremendous savings in health care when long-term medical bills are reduced drastically in the future.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.