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Founder and President of SAHA Institute, Dr Nadim Al-Duaij.
Obesity curbs life expectancy: study - ‘51 pc kids overweight’

 KUWAIT CITY, May 12: The public awareness campaign, HEYA! (Health Empowerment Youth Association), was launched Sunday at Kuwait National Library under the leadership of SAHA Institute and the patronages of the Ministry of Youth Affairs. to address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in Kuwait. The unique initiative, which utilizes the successful French EPODE methodology of community-based interventions, will begin implementing its initial phase of raising awareness throughout the community, targeting the youth.

The event invited several speakers from participating groups and sectors to elaborate on the current obesity situation in Kuwait and how the campaign will impact the community. Fawaz al Saiyan of the Ministry of Youth stated the ministry’s support for the campaign,stressing the importance of a change in eating habits throughout Kuwait. “It is important that all society play a part. 6,210 Kuwaiti citizens are under the age of 29, so this is a challenge to have to reconstruct their understanding, and this is the main weapon against obesity,” said Al- Saiyan. With over 4,700 restaurants available, one for every 230 people, and a lack of proper nutritional information and minimal physical activity,Kuwait currently ranks second in obesity, preceded by the US by the World Health Organization. Head of Technical Affairs Department at the Ministry of Health, Dr Majida Al Qattan, stated: “70 percent of males, and 80 percent of females over the age of 15 are overweight.”

Studies completed in 2010, Kuwait’s childhood obesity rate is up to 46 percent, with the estimation for 2014 rising to 51 percent, according to the Ministry of Health. The adverse long-term impact includes shortening life expectancy by up to 10 years. Founder and President of SAHA institute, Dr Nadim Al Duaij briefly outlined the other negative effects of obesity, such as lower selfesteem, and psychological disorder. He further stated that the key to the campaign becoming a success is having on board a solid communications and marketing group.

Dr Al Duaij believes the methodology of the campaign is what makes it more likely to succeed than previous campaigns. “We won’t focus schools, on clinics, only at the household level, or at the public level, but instead bring in the entire community to work with us. It’s a coordinated capacity building effort. It’s not only top-down. It’s not someone coming in from overseas saying ‘this is the way you should do things’, but it’s really top down at the policy-making levels; speaking to our legislators on what are the best policies for school physical education curricula, school nutrition, urban design - how you design a city so that it’s ‘walkable’, despite the climate. It’s that and grassroots efforts. It’s going to the communities and households, and having community meetings, working with the schools so that every aspect of the child’s life is impacted every day,” said Dr Al Duaij The campaign will adopt a public health perspective, to include all children between the ages of 1 and 12. The first phase, public awareness, will be implemented immediately utilizing an active, upbeat campaign with cartoon characters of talking fruit and vegetables.

By: Dina Naser Arab Times Staff

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