Minister: Obesity prevalence close to 30%

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OBESITY prevalence is close to 30 per cent while the diabetes rate is over 12 per cent in Brunei, the minister of health told the World Health Organization Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.

Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain Hj Hanafi said tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Brunei poses challenges that cannot be met by the Ministry of Health (MoH) alone.

In a statement by MoH, the minister said success demands intersectoral collaboration and significant behavioural change among the population.

“We want to empower communities and individuals to take responsibility for their own health. This will not be straightforward,” he continued.

The minister said to tackle the threat of NCDs, “we must face up to its key determinant – societal behaviour and lifestyles”.

He said Brunei adopted a two-pronged approach to the issue of behaviour change.

“At the individual level, we engage our clients using brief interventions at all points of contact. At the population level, we are actively developing choice architecture that provides a clear nudge towards healthier decisions.”

There is also a need to address the commercial interests that stand to gain from the marketing of sugary drinks and unhealthy foods, YB Dato Dr Zulkarnain said.

“As alluded by Madam director general in her address, this situation demands a global response before it reaches a tipping point towards an obesogenic environment that is irreversible,” he added.

With a political commitment to adopt a ‘whole of nation’ approach, YB Dato Dr Hj Zulkarnain said Brunei undertook a comprehensive restructuring to ensure “our form fits our function”.

The minister said his ministry is focusing on renewed efforts towards preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases through the use of healthcare technology.

“Our national ‘one patient, one record’ digital system already captures 95 per cent of our population and we intend to harness the data and evidence from this to advance the healthy lifestyle agenda,” he said.

The ministry has also identified three strategic priorities – inculcating ‘Health is Everyone’s Business’, preventing and controlling NCDs, and delivering excellent services, he said.

The minister said Brunei will engage with the WHO and international partners to determine and test a comprehensive approach to address “profit-driven diseases”.

YB Dato Dr Zulkarnain headed Brunei’s delegation to the 69th WHO Assembly, which saw the attendance of 194 WHO member nations.

The theme for this year’s World Health Assembly is “Transforming the World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

Among the issues discussed at the World Health Assembly were maternal, infant and young child nutrition, Draft Global Plan of Action on Violence, Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as surveillance and response to communicable diseases.

Prior to the assembly, the minister led the delegation for the 28th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland last Sunday.

The Brunei Times