Brunei tops Asean in obesity

Highest rate: Minister of Health Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman (R) delivering his speech as Hjh Masni Hj Ibrahim, the symposium's co-chairperson, looks on. Picture: Syafie Nadi

Monday, April 28, 2008

BRUNEI has the highest obesity rate among Asean member countries, according to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) global database on body mass index (BMI), which placed Brunei in the 37th and 43rd positions for adult women and men respectively, for BMI of 30 and more.

Studies have shown that overweight and obesity are risk factors associated with many chronic diseases that are increasingly becoming a burden to many nations and contributes to rising health care costs.

The first line and foremost important management of the conditions is non-pharmacological management, however, many underestimate its value and efficacy, said Dr Hjh Kalsom Abdul Latif, director-general of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, during yesterday's symposium on 'Empowering Health Professionals on Non-Pharmacological Weight Management'.

"The tendency is to resort firstly and a lot of times only to pharmacological management as the quick fix, rather than trying to change mindset and lifestyle," she added.

The symposium saw speakers from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and Jerudong Park Medical Centre (JPMC) which covered topics on non-pharmacological management of overweight and obesity, including aspects on nutrition, physical activity and psychology.

The symposium clarified issues of various dieting methods, myths and ethos of losing weight, realistic calorie intake and requirements, and various aspects of physical activity in weight management.

During the symposium, it was stated that 10 years ago, Brunei's National Nutritional Status Survey (NNSS) indicated that 11.2 per cent of adult males and 12.8 per cent of adult females were obese while 45 per cent and 44.1 per cent of males and females respectively were overweight.

Pengiran Hartini Pengiran Hj Tahir, clinical psychologist of public health at the Ministry of Health, during her talk entitled 'Psychological Aspects of Weight Management', said it is generally difficult for individuals to lose weight and it's also a challenge for the medical professionals and other health care providers involved in the management.

"Many individuals who begin exercise programmes either do not participate in them regularly or do not maintain them for long," she said, adding that based on what was observed during her involvement in the Klinik Badan Sihat (KBS) — a community based programme aimed to promote healthy lifestyle — the root cause of weight gain was lack of self-discipline.

Stress and lack of support from either friends or family members were other factors which might interfere or prevent successful weight loss.

However, understanding the psychological factors in weight maintenance and relapse in obesity are crucial as this may lead to the development of improved psychological treatments for obesity and moreover, it can prevent the psychological consequences of being overweight or obese, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and eating disorders, she added.

"Maintaining the ideal weight is the part of the story we often do not hear about, partly because so few are successful at it," said Pengiran Hartini.

"Keeping your sights set on maintaining a certain weight and level of fitness, rather than simply reaching a target weight, will change your perspective. So instead of focusing on how to get down to a certain clothing size as fast as possible, you should be more concerned with what enduring lifestyle changes you can make," she advised.

The symposium was aimed at improving health professionals' knowledge so that they can give better information and counselling to their patients.

The Brunei Times