The first-ever stakeholder engagement on multi-level determinants of obesity in Ghana took place at the M-Plaza Hotel last week.
The workshop, the first of its kind to use a multi-sectoral approach, aims to help understand how policymaking on obesity in Ghana happens and who the key actors are.
The event, under the auspices of the Office of the President, was led by Kingsley Agyemang, a doctoral researcher with the Department of Clinical Sciences at Brunel University in England.
The workshop set out to understand the policy architecture and decision-making context around obesity management in Ghana. The objective was to inform the design of the study’s literature review phase.
Aside from that, it aimed to identify the main actors in obesity management and prevention and to inform future stakeholder engagement activity.
In his presentation, Mr Agyemang announced that the research will conduct the first comprehensive survey of obesity in six metropolises in Ghana.
“It will explore the interrelationship between multiple lifestyle behaviours to facilitate the design of multi-factorial interventions,” he said.
On the expected outcomes of the research, Mr Agyemang said at the end of the stakeholder engagement, there will be a need to promote the design of context-specific interventions as effective tools to reduce obesity rates in Ghana, as well as “highlight the need to account for unintended consequences in designing obesity-related interventions”.
Scary but reassuring
Addressing the press on the sidelines of the workshop, Mr Agyemang said that although the report carried by Asenso et al was very scary, with four out of ten Ghanaians found to be obese, the stakeholders’ engagement will ensure that ways are found to address the problem.
It is important that all governments take immediate action to support the reduction of obesity, he said.
Mr Agyemang cited a plethora of health concerns that accompany obesity, including heart attacks, diabetes, cancer and lower back pain, all of which impede development.
“As opined by the World Health Organisation report of 2018, it is estimated that the cost of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), among which obesity is very dominant, is about $7 trillion.
“This means there is going to be a huge medical bill as a result of diabetics and heart attacks and all the cardiovascular diseases. People will not work as they ought to work. So this has serious implications for the nation.”
Mr Agyemang said the stakeholder engagement was in the right direction as the policy document that will be produced through the research will go a long way to address obesity in Ghana.
Although the World Health Organisation is advocating a serious reduction in NCDs and cases of obesity by 2030, this has not had any impact in Ghana, given the startling statistics on obesity.
He, however, expressed the hope that stakeholders will now engage on the best way forward.
Mr Agyemang announced that between February and May next year, a second stakeholder engagement will identify policy-relevant research questions for empirical analysis to inform conceptualisation and data collection on multi-level factors.
“And then between October 2021 and January 2022, we will present the empirical findings and inform the development of policy guidelines for obesity prevention in Ghana,” he said.
The MP for Bosomtwi and Deputy Minister of Education, Yaw Osei Adutwum, said that one of the major challenges confronting developing countries is obesity.
Unlike in the past, when developing countries had to confront only the issue of stunting, obesity has also become one of the problems they have to tackle. Both obesity and stunted growth affect learning outcomes, he pointed out.
“To have a workshop like this with the participation of my ministry will go a long way to help develop a curriculum around physical activities, “he said.
Anthony Nsiah Asare, the presidential advisor on health matters, said he was happy with the work being done, which will be used to determine Ghana’s policy direction on obesity.
Dr Nsiah Asare, the former Director General of the Ghana Health Services, said this was the only way the country can cut down on health expenditure.
“So Mr Kingsley, we are very thankful to you and will be following you to know what you have done so that it will inform us in our health policies,” Dr Nsiah Asare said.
He also announced that by 2030 the Ghana Health Service will publish details of how many and which hospitals any Ghanaian can walk into and have his or her health checked thoroughly.
Dr Okoe Boye, the MP for Ledzokuku, who is also a medical doctor and doubles as the board chairman of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, said having a law on obesity will be phenomenal.
“With human beings, by nature, changing our lifestyle is not easy,” Dr Okoe Boye said.
“It is my hope that the results from this study can help to produce legislation so that we stop begging people to live right. I thank God for being part of this study.”