Childhood obesity soaring in Brunei; health minister says problem must be urgently addressed

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ANN): Childhood obesity is a shared responsibility and needs to be addressed with the cooperation from all segments of society, said Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham Jaafar in a message for World Obesity Day 2024.

The minister revealed that the theme for this year’s World Obesity Day observance in the country is “Let’s talk about obesity and children”, highlighting it as a serious public health challenge.

“In Brunei Darussalam, the 2019 Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) showed that the obesity rate among adolescents aged 13 to 17 was 18.1 per cent, an increase from 17.4 per cent in 2014. This rate is the highest among Southeast Asian countries,” said the minister.

“Meanwhile, the prevalence of overweight among adolescents was also high at 35.6 per cent in 2019, compared to 35.2 per cent in 2014.

“Health screenings by the School Health Services among students nationwide also found 25 to 30 per cent of Year 1, 4 and 7 students to be overweight and obese over the last five years,” he added.

“Obesity among children is very concerning because it can affect their emotional and mental well-being, including experiences of depression, stress, anxiety, and social isolation. These problems can persist into adulthood.

“If this is not addressed early on, the trend will continue to rise, and obese children are at high risk of becoming obese adults with non-communicable diseases,” he said.

The minister said there are multitude of factors contributing to obesity, including genetics, environment, psychology, culture and social factors, unhealthy and imbalanced diets, lack of physical activity, and certain medications.

“According to the 2019 GSHS survey, 78.7 per cent of adolescents do not consume enough fruits and 86.8 per cent of them do not consume enough vegetables.

“The survey also found that 40 per cent of adolescents consume carbonated drinks at least once a day. Furthermore, 89 per cent of adolescents do not engage in physical activity as recommended by the WHO, which is at least 60 minutes per day.

“The lack of physical activity and unhealthy dietary practices from an early age are influenced by the children’s environment such as household habits, excessive screen time or gadget usage, school schedules, food and beverage marketing.”


The Ministry of Health (MoH) emphasises prevention measures at every stage of life, including from the prenatal stage and childhood, said Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham.

”Among the initiatives taken to prevent obesity among children include strengthening relevant policies and guidelines to prioritise a healthy environment, code of marketing of food and beverages to protect children from the effects of advertising of unhealthy food and beverages, and the sugar-sweetened beverages tax.

“Another initiative is collaborating with various sectors through actions outlined in the Brunei Darussalam National Multisectoral Action Plan on for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (BruMAP-NCD) 2021-2025.

“There is also obesity counselling and nutrition counselling services at health centres and hospitals. The MoH also provides an obesity clinic for adults at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital through referrals from health centres.

“Preventing obesity problems among children requires effort, involvement, and commitment from all parties including individuals, parents, schools, the food and beverage industry, and other sectors to create a healthier environment.

“On the occasion of World Obesity Day, let us all work together to adopt healthy lifestyles and intensify efforts to accelerate actions for obesity prevention.

“Insya Allah, the ministry, in collaboration with stakeholders, will continue to be committed to addressing the problem of obesity by studying and implementing policies that enable a healthy environment to ensure the quality of life for ourselves and our children will continue to be guaranteed”, said the minister. - Borneo Bulletin/ANN

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Brunei , Major Problem , Obesity , Young Children , Soaring ,


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