Embassy of Denmark in collaboration with Diabetes Association of Thailand and Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) organises “Urbanization and Obesity” forum

Embassy of Denmark in collaboration with Diabetes Association of Thailand and Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) organises “Urbanization and Obesity” forum

The Embassy of Denmark in Thailand led by H.E. Jon Thorgaard, Ambassador, in collaboration with Diabetes Association of Thailand and Novo Nordisk Pharma (Thailand) Ltd., organised a forum on the topic of “Urbanization and Obesity”. Organisations joining the forum at the Embassy of Denmark in Thailand included: Khon Thai Rai Poong Network, The Royal College of Physicians of Thailand; Association of Thai NCD Alliance, Division of Non Communicable Diseases, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health; and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chadchart Sittipunt, Governor.

The forum featured a discussion of the current obesity situation and higher risk of obesity among city dwellers in order to raise awareness of the obesity problem and related policies for health promotion and obesity treatment. The forum aimed at encouraging cooperation and action at all levels to prevent health risk factors for people in communities and families.

“One of the main problems with today’s urban lifestyle is obesity because living in the city with everything available makes people inactive and exercise less,” said H.E. Jon Thorgaard, Ambassador of Denmark to Thailand. “This problem is not only in Thailand but worldwide. Obesity is also a rapidly increasing problem in Denmark with up to 20% of the Danish population overweight. Such a problem affects not only individuals but society as a whole including raising labour concerns, and work and social norms that put pressure on obese people, undermining their confidence. This leads us to urgently try to find a serious solution to this problem.”

“To alleviate the problem, Denmark launched a ‘car-ban campaign’ for its citizens in 2012 with a target of having 75% of the population join in. The campaign aims to encourage people to use more public transportation services, walk more and cycle more, especially on designated cycle superhighways. As a result, the number of obesity patients has significantly decreased. Perhaps Thailand could run a campaign like this, even though the weather here is quite hot. If all parties find a solution to support this issue together, there will be many more urban people doing exercise and this is in line with the forum’s objective.”

Professor Emeritus Wannee Nitiyanant, M.D., President Diabetes Association of Thailand, explained that, “The new obesity assessment criteria is not only about measuring body mass index but also waistline. Previously, we used the standard of obesity which measures abdominal obesity with a waistline of 80 cm for women and 90 cm for men. A survey in 2019-2020 found that 39 percent of Thai people, or over 22 million, have belly fat. Now the Ministry of Public Health has announced waistline criteria, indicating that belly fat around the waist must not exceed one’s height divided by two. Using this criterion, about 50% of Thai people are obese. Bangkok has the highest number of fat people, accounting for almost 60 percent of residents. This leads to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or incurrent diseases that require long-term continuous care, including diabetes, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease. As for the cost to the economy, in 2017 about 181 million baht was lost in the treatment for obesity-related problems which is astronomical. But more important than that are premature deaths, especially among working people who contribute to national economic development. Therefore, we need to be aware of the need for urgent solutions to this issue.”

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chadchart Sittipunt, Governor of Bangkok, added that, “As many as 56% of people in Bangkok qualify as obese which is surprisingly high. We need to find solutions by, first of all, prioritizing our citizens’ health. However, it all starts with ourselves. I used to be fat but I decided to lose weight before becoming Bangkok governor. We can all do that if we make a good plan. As for getting people to exercise more, we have extended the opening hours of three parks, Lumpini, Chatuchak and Benjasiri from 04.30-21.30 hrs. We also have activities in the parks every morning. Moreover, we have improved walk-run paths, extended bicycle lanes and made public transportation seamlessly connected while allowing people to take foldable bicycles on the BTS skytrain. We also promote more people to use bicycles to get around or walk in accordance with our ‘walkable city’ policy. We have also improved the condition of the sidewalks along many roads to make walking more convenient. For getting around any city, the most important capillary system is walking which is the lowest cost and most environmentally-friendly way of getting around as well. Being more physically active improves people’s health. Meanwhile, we have set up an obesity centre providing advice and counselling which will be under the supervision of a physician with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) as a sponsor. Among the many projects already underway in Bangkok, we are accelerating our drive to plant one million trees. This is not only for ourselves but for our loved ones and our descendants.”

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