By Syafiq Affendy

Brunei obesity rate highest in region

Article from Borneo Bulletin Sunday. Published on Sunday Oct, 11 2009

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The Minister of Health yesterday urged the public to take care of themselves by making sure that their lifestyle, the food they eat and the environment they live in all contribute towards their general health and well-being.

The minister, Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi bin Hj Osman was speaking as guest of honour at the opening ceremony of the Fourth Annual Academic Session of the Institute of Medicine, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

This year's session carried the theme "Promoting Research in Health Sciences".

Brunei's first National Nutritional Status Survey, the results of which was disclosed by Pehin Hj Suyoi in his speech, showed that 11.2 per cent of adult males and 12.8 per cent of adult females in the country were obese. The survey was conducted in line with the 1992 World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition.

"Recently, for body mass index of 30 and more, the WHO Global Database on Body Mass Index (BMI) has placed Brunei Darussalam at the 37th and 43rd positions for adult women and men respectively. This result has also placed Brunei as the country with the highest obesity rate among the Asean member countries," the minister added.

"In September 2007, the Ministry launched its Integrated Health Screening Programme to screen civil servants for chronic diseases and to promote health awareness among them. Early findings of the first 7,622 civil servants screened so far have shown that 53 per cent of these civil servants were either overweight or obese, with 21 per cent having a BMI of more than 30. This alarming figure supports the need for further in-depth study of health status including overweight and obesity levels in our general population.

"This is what the 2nd National Health and Nutritional Status Survey hopes to do," said the minister. "This survey, which was launched at the end of March this year, is aimed at providing evidence-based information on diet-nutrition-disease relationship as basis for revising and recommending action plans and strategies for targeted groups. Once completed, the project will provide us with evidence-based information and insights to direct our future health policy and agenda to improve the health and nutrition status of the people."

Oral health is also undergoing active research by the ministry, said Pehin Hj Suyoi, as dental caries (or tooth decay or cavity) is still a major public health problem in Brunei for both children and adults.

"The last national oral health survey which was carried out in 1999 showed that for 5- and 6-year-old children, only 11.3 per cent of these children do not have any tooth decay," he said. "This is below the target set by the World Health Organisation and the International Dental Federation whose global oral health goal for these children is that 50 and 90 per cent of them should be free of dental caries by the years 2000 and 2010, respectively.

"Through oral health promotion and increasing public awareness on the importance of oral health, and by persuading individuals to make some lifestyle changes, it is expected that sustainable gains in oral health would be achieved by the population of Brunei Darussalam," the minister added.

In order to determine the effectiveness of these strategies to reduce the prevalence of oral diseases, the Ministry of Health through the Department of Dental Services has started planning for another national oral health survey which will be conducted in 2010.

Inaugurated in 2006, the Annual Academic Session of the Institute of Medicine has over the years undergone significant change. Now it has become a major event in the calendar of the Brunei health sector and part of a continuing tradition.

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