Thursday, June 3, 2010

Obesity and chronic diseases - A part of development?

by Karen Coppock

Obesity is rapidly increasing in China - 30 - 50% per year - and in developing countries across the globe as incomes improve, people work in more sedentary jobs and eat more processed food. With obesity comes diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a variety of other chronic diseases and illnesses. In addition to obesity, longer life spans - which are also associated with economic development - also increase the likelihood of suffering from a chronic disease. Are chronic diseases a part of development?

Professors James Kahn, M.D., M.PH. and Joshua Yang, Ph.D. seem to answer yes to this question. In a report they wrote - The Relationship among Economic Development, Health, and the Potential Roles of mHealth - for a conference on mHealth in Bellagio, they note that:
  • "Reducing chronic disease often requires rejecting behaviors associated with greater wealth (e.g., tobacco use, high-fat and high-sugar diets, and decreased physical activity) and thus relinquishing their perceived status value."
Since it is unlikely that most people will reject these behaviors (as evidenced by the US and the increasing obesity rates in China and other countries), technologists should continue to focus on how to use technology for behavior change as well as for the tracking, treating and assisting people who end up with these chronic diseases. The success of these efforts are essential for the cost-effective care of those already ill and to stem the tide of future sufferers of these diseases.

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