South Africa is a developing country with great and potential especially towards improving its citizens economically. More so, South African has been on the forefront of making improvement on the health and well-being of its citizen and Africa at large. However, numerous challenges exist to the health and optimal growth especially in children growing up in this country. South Africa has an estimated population of approximately fifty million people many of whom have high socioeconomic disparities (46.3% below poverty levels, 53.7% in middle to high social status). Further, existing statistics indicates that of this population, forty percent is held by the youth aged 18years and below. Indeed, the aim of this essay is to highlight on obesity as a health issues affecting the youth aged between six and eighteen years. Further the goal of this paper is to show the trends being made to reduce the escalating problem of obesity from current standings of 10% to below 7% by 2015. This will help the country to meet its millennium development goals.
In South Africa, the problem of obesity is very complex and this is attributed to the country’s historical, socio-economic among other conditions. According to Kruger et al. (2005) proposed that various socioeconomic and cultural influences may have resulted to the obesity epidemic in South Africa. As such, obesity in South Africa is not limited to a particular ethnic, age or socio-economic group. This suggestion indicates that the cultural, environment and genetic elements should also be considered when analyzing the causes of early age obesity). In South Africa, poverty has indicated to be one of the causes of obesity among them children below the age of five and the youth. As a fact, obesity is associated to excess calories intake and inactive lifestyle than from any other known factors. On the other hand, poverty and unemployment largely result to poor levels of nourishment, raised food insecurity levels and occurrences of undernourishment. Therefore, to overcome this challenge, the majority poor will only access starch as their main and basic meal, hence, being subjected to excess calories intake. For example, existing data indicated am alarmingly high levels of stunting and obese among the poor population, varying with age, where a with a prevalence of up to 32% at one year of age, and leveled off to about 3% – 6% at five years and, in boys, again rising to 14% – 15% during adolescence, while it rose to 18% among girls at adolescence.
Secondly, Urbanization and diet is another factor attributed to the high level of obesity among the children and the youth in South Africa. Urban lifestyle is known to be embracing fast-food as their main meals. Research’s indicates that due the busy lifestyle in the urban areas the residents are left with limited or no time to prepare homemade meals. Accordingly, they consume the readily available fast-food that has high fat content thus resulting to obesity. Further, this is supplemented by the sedentary behavior and lack of exercise/ inactivity associated to urban lifestyle. For example, in South Africa only 17% of primary school children and 29% of secondary school children walks to school for a distance that takes more than 30 minutes, the rest majority is driven to school, hence; they are inactive and vulnerable to being obese.
Lastly, South Africa has numerous cultural differences that comprise the Caucasian, Asian and the Black races. As it had been earlier outlined, culture is a major factor that continues to obesity due to eating habits associated to it. Further, in some cultures social get-togethers encourage overeating and certain foods are allied with social status and become more acceptable among South Africans citizens. Hence, this significantly promotes the high level of obesity being experienced in the country.