In my last rant post, I belittled the obesity problems that we are facing in Canada. I can certainly acknowledge that the prevalence of processed foods in Canadian diets, with ever-growing package sizes and salt and sugar quantities, is concerning. I can also acknowledge that most of the children I know likely do less physical activity that what is considered the healthy norm. But throwing the term “obesity epidemic” about just feels wrong to me.
I had a few dissenters in my comments (which I love – thank you for sharing your views!) on that post and it made me question why exactly it feels wrong … Is it because I don’t want to acknowledge the issue? Or perhaps I am embarrassed about crunching the numbers and realizing that this “obese” category being discussed is actually a category into which I fall?
I’ve decided that it is indeed because I am embarrassed. And here’s why:
- 33.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, the vast majority of whom are in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2008 (source: WHO).
- 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year from unsafe water and poor sanitation. That is more than 4,100 deaths per day (source: WaterCan).
- Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhoea. Today, only 39 per cent of children with diarrhoea in developing countries receive the recommended treatment, and limited trend data suggest that there has been little progress since 2000 (source: UNICEF/WHO).
- In 2008, malaria caused nearly one million deaths, mostly among African children. Malaria is preventable and curable (source: WHO).
- In 2010, the number of children worldwide who have lost one or both parents to AIDS is expected to reach 25 million – equivalent to the number of people living in New York, Paris, and Bangkok combined. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over 15 million children have been orphaned by the pandemic (source: World AIDS Orphans Day).
I sit back and imagine … if I lived in a community facing one of the above epidemics, how would I feel about reading a headline from Canada about an “obesity epidemic”? I can’t answer this question, since I’ll never know how it feels to face such life-threatening and difficult life circumstances. But I can tell you that if I was sitting beside this same person who was reading that headline, I’d definitely be embarrassed. Shamefaced, actually.