Screen_Shot_2014-09-03_at_8.28.48_PMOne of the biggest health stories of the year has been the rise in obesity among both adults and children in the world and in Belize it is no different. We've all heard so much about the "obesity epidemic" that it is easy to think the story is being blown out of proportion. After all, people putting on a few pounds may not seem to warrant the proclamation of a national emergency. But while obesity may not be the Black Death, it is a severe public health crisis. Experts agree that as more and more obese children become obese adults, the diseases associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancer, and especially diabetes will surge. That will mean a lot of sick people. Today when we sat down with Medical Officer at the Northern Regional Hospital, Dr Manuel Estrada, we were informed that 60 percent of the Belizean population suffer from overweight issues and obesity. So, one has to wonder, how obesity got so out of control that we reached this crisis. And more importantly, how do we stop it?


Dr. Manuel Estrada – Medical Officer, NRH


“The contributing factors are similar to those chronic illness in diabetes and hypertension, the main one is lack of adequate diet, as you can see we have here a pamphlet which includes diabetes, obesity and hypertension, and the risk factors are almost the same; over eating, lack of exercise, toxic habits, for example smoking, drinking, not eating diet rich in fats that tend to produce obesity, high levels of sugar foods which are those with high contents of sugar among the main factors, they have other factors which are non-modifiable for example age, family history because there are families which the entire family is overweight and also with age as we get older our metabolism gets slower and tent to go towards obesity.”


Maria Novelo – Reporter


“How does obesity and overweight impact our health overall?”


Dr. Manuel Estrada – Medical Officer, NRH


“To talk about overweight and obesity we have a chart that we use for males and for females so we have to see the height and the age depending on the graph and the height and we then can see if the person is overweight, normal weight or mal-nourished or in fact if it is the opposite it is overweight or obese usually the person will fall within these lines; below it would be mal-nourished or underweight and above it would be overweight or obese. There are a lot of things that are recorded as it related to obesity for example, cardiovascular system if you are obese there are higher chances of stroke, diabetes, higher chances of hypertension , when it comes to the muscular skeletal system so the more weight you have on the more weight your joints have to bear on and then you would have back pain and other types of pain and depending of the system we can also have stroke and there are a series of things that are related to obesity.”


So what's causing the epidemic? Not surprisingly, everyone agrees that it stems from two things: eating too much and exercising too little. The differences are in the specifics and if it continues to spiral down this trend, Dr. Estrada says it will only create more health problems down the road.


Dr. Manuel Estrada – Medical Officer, NRH


“The community can participate, if you notice healthy food is barely promoted, we promote more things which are fast food and if you g to any restaurant you could a see a cup of juice s more expensive than buying a coca cola for example so people tend to go for the cheaper but although it is not good for the health.”


Maria Novelo – Reporter


“And then on that note, we know Belizeans are on a steady diet of ramen noodles and so forth, does it impact obesity or does it more unhealthy eating.”


Dr. Manuel Estrada – Medical Officer, NRH


“Well, ramen is not as healthy as it is but it is made of flour, carbohydrates and the more carbohydrate you eat the more sugars you have so the chances of obtaining diabetes and obesity is higher, healthy foods are with high levels of protein, high level of vegetables, we have abundant vegetable but we don’t use them like salads for example. Obesity is not just a problem for Belize but it is a problem worldwide if you notice in other countries they try to promote other measures to bring down obesity in children in schools and they are promoting more physical education and educating the parents.”


Despite the new attention paid to obesity by doctors, researchers, and the media, no discernable progress has been made in fighting obesity. According to most experts, it looks almost certain that obesity will get worse before it gets better. 

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