China launches new awareness campaign to curb high obesity rates

2024-July-5 13:53 By: Xinhua

BEIJING, July 4 (Xinhua) -- With half its adult population now rated as overweight or obese, China is promoting weight control through a new public awareness campaign.

Launched by the National Health Commission (NHC) this week, the campaign encapsulates weight-control knowledge into eight catchy slogans emphasizing lifelong commitment, active monitoring, a balanced diet, physical activity, good sleep, reasonable targets and family action.

It is part of a three-year government program to help more Chinese people adopt a healthier lifestyle.

"Obesity and overweight are a major public health issue," said Guo Yanhong, director of the Health Emergency Response Office of the NHC. "We must intervene and improve the situation."

The government's active intervention highlights a harsh reality: the nation that struggled to feed its people half a century ago is now fighting an uphill battle against excess weight among the population, as living conditions have improved significantly.

As an indicator of the gravity of the issue, data shows that 19 percent of minors aged 6 to 17 and 10 percent of children under 6 are overweight or obese.

Epidemiologists attributed the problem to substantial changes in Chinese people's dietary patterns, with increased consumption of animal-source foods, refined grains and highly processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods, while physical activity levels have decreased with increasing sedentary behaviors.

Obesity and overweight are major risk factors for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.

"Strong evidence from prospective cohort studies has linked overweight and obesity to increased risks of major non-communicable diseases and premature mortality in Chinese populations," said a paper published by The Lancet in 2021.

The government has acted on the problem. Healthy China 2030, a comprehensive national strategy and vision for improving public health and healthcare issued in 2016, explicitly lists curbing overweight and obesity as a major goal, with detailed measures introduced.

Guidelines for obesity prevention and control among adults and children have been released, and the "15-minute fitness circles" program, which aims to provide accessible sports facilities within a 15-minute walking or cycling distance from residential areas, is being expanded.

Sports facilities across the country have grown rapidly, with the per capita sports area reaching 2.89 square meters in 2023. The total length of fitness trails reached 371,000 kilometers, a 107 percent increase compared to 2019.

To promote healthy diets, provinces such as the rice-producing Heilongjiang are encouraging restaurants and canteens to cut patrons' consumption of salt, cooking oil and alcohol.

"The government is placing a premium on our health. Let's take action!" said Zhuang Ange, an office worker who decided to hit the gym after work twice a week.

A 21-year-old college student surnamed Sun pledged to eat fewer desserts and more fruit to "consume healthier sugars."

Xu Jianfang, a fitness expert from the China Institute of Sport Science, proposed a practical approach to physical activity considering the fast-paced nature of work, study and lifestyle.

He suggested "fragmentizing" physical activities, which entails seizing any available time for exercise.

"For instance, we can opt to walk to work or choose to take the stairs instead of the elevators. We advocate considering exercise as a 'snack' in our daily lives, gradually improving our health step by step," Xu explained.

Editor: WXY
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