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Friday, June 21, 2024

Thailand’s Obesity Crisis: Urgent Call to Action on World Obesity Day 2024

Novo Nordisk Thailand, a leading innovation-driven company focusing on developing medicines and healthcare services for patients with obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), partners with network associations including the Association of Thai NCD Alliance (ThaiNCD); the Thai Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (TSMBS); Chula Bariatric and Metabolic Institute (ChulaBMI) at Chulalongkorn Hospital, Thai Red Cross Society; to campaign for raising awareness among Thais and understanding the impact of obesity. They aim to change perspectives and increase knowledge on obesity prevention and treatment, fostering inspiration for patients to achieve sustainable weight loss and good health.

The obesity rate among Thais has increased by 40%, with 20 million people affected, ranking second in Asia, and showing a growing trend every year. A report from BMJ Global Health suggests that by 2060, if the obesity rate in Thailand remains unaltered, it could impact the country’s economy by 4.9% of GDP, approximately 853 billion baht. Obesity is, therefore, a significant global issue that everyone should prioritise and work together to improve the obesity situation. The alliance recently hosted events and seminars for World Obesity Day 2024, rallying medical experts to share knowledge under the theme ‘Obesity Day: The big disease that bigger than you think— Let’s talk about Obesity & Health’ at the Central Court Zone, 1st floor, CentralWorld.

Mr. Enrico Cañal Bruland, Vice President and General Manager of Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand), said “The purpose of this year’s World Obesity Day event is to raise awareness and educate the Thai people that obesity is a worldwide problem also affecting many people in Thailand. Both the private and public sector should work together to advance measures and promote the objective to urgently reduce the number of people living with obesity in Thailand.”

An estimated one-third of the population in Thailand lives with obesity, with over 20 million Thais affected by the condition in the previous year, Obesity – The big disease that is bigger than you think.

“Therefore, Thailand’s medical and public health sectors will face a significant challenge in reducing the prevalence of obesity, as the country approaches an ageing population, and the younger generation living with overweight or obesity at earlier ages.” Mr. Enrico further states that Novo Nordisk is committed to advancing drug innovation through research and development, as well as fostering partnerships with medical and public health organizations to drive change in chronic non-communicable diseases as obesity and diabetes.

Associate Professor Dr.Petch Rod-Aree, President of the ThaiNCD Network Association, emphasised: “There is an urgent need for collaboration between the government and private sectors to promote awareness of the serious health consequences of obesity, including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, sleep apnea, chronic back pain, sexual dysfunction, and its association with cancer. Complications related to obesity impose a significant economic burden on the country, with patients suffering from heart disease and kidney disease incurring treatment costs ranging from 134,000 to 421,000 baht per person per year.”

Dr.Olarik Musigavong, obstetrician-gynaecologist and reproductive medicine specialist at Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, commented on the real causes of obesity, stating that it is not solely due to lack of discipline in self-care or dedication to weight loss efforts. Genetics, for instance, can influence obesity rates by up to 40-70%. Stress, which affects eating behaviours, and certain medications with weight gain side effects also play a role. Additionally, sedentary lifestyles and environments with minimal physical activity contribute to obesity. Furthermore, in terms of environmental and lifestyle factors, there is a significant impact on excessive weight gain.

Dr.Pimpanit Condee, a psychology and behavioural expert from Nudge Thailand, provided information on the application of behavioural science in addressing obesity or overweight individuals, emphasising the importance of making ‘not being obese’ something achievable in daily life. This can include preparing exercise clothes and equipment by the bed for easy access, stocking the refrigerator with healthy foods and beverages, preparing low-sugar and low-fat snacks. Additionally, creating exercise groups with friends can promote effective weight loss.

Dr.Smith Arayaskul, Dermatologist , lifestyle and antiaging medicine specialist at Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital, expressed concerns about the lack of knowledge and understanding about obesity among many people, including negative attitudes towards obese patients and those overweight. This is particularly worrisome as obesity not only impacts the body but also affects mental health. It was found that obese 50% of female and 41% of male patients had a risk of severe mental health problems. Obese patients were at a higher risk of depression by 55% and increased anxiety by 25%. Furthermore, being bullied for being overweight was the top issue among children and adolescents. Additionally, it was found that obese patients tend to have a significantly higher risk of depression, up to 1.34 times, and research has shown that if obese patients can lose weight by at least 10%, it can significantly improve physical health, quality of life, confidence, sexual health, work, and mental well-being in all aspects.

Professor Dr.Suthep Udomsawaengsup, Director of Chula bariatric and metabolic institute (Chula BMI), discussed addressing and treating obese patients, highlighting the importance of discussing and providing information on daily lifestyle behaviours, eating habits, exercise, or physical activity of each day. In addition to personal health information, to understand the true causes and find appropriate weight loss strategies together. If unsuccessful, medication may be required. Currently, medications used to treat obesity are highly effective and safer, such as GLP-1 analogues, which can be used to reduce weight in obese patients. Some obese patients may consider surgery to lose weight, with three common surgical methods: 1) gastric banding, 2) bariatric surgery, and 3) gastric bypass surgery. The doctor will evaluate together with relevant specialists and consult with patients and caregivers. Surgeons will consider surgery when obese patients have a BMI of 32.5 kg/m² or more and have comorbidities or patients with a BMI greater than 37.5 kg/m².

Visitors to the event not only gained a wealth of knowledge about obesity but also participated in the Obesity Checkpoint activity to easily check their Body Mass Index (BMI) and assess whether they are at risk of obesity. They also enjoyed taking photos at the Photo Booth within the event.

For those interested in more information about obesity and its associated treatments, please visit the website at https://www.truthaboutweight.global/th/th.html.

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