Addressing The Issue Of Obesity In The Bahamas

By Dr Bernie Hanna

AS the Obesity problem increases in The Bahamas, we need to get to the root of the problem. What is the cause of our obesity?

What are the issues that we need to address?

Some key facts about obesity stated by The World Health Organization:

Overweight and obesity are defined as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.”

Body mass index (BMI) – the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2) – is a commonly used index to classify overweight and obesity in adults. WHO defines overweight as a BMI equal to or more than 25, and obesity as a BMI equal to or more than 30.

Being overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than being underweight.

65% of the world’s population lives in a country where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. This includes all high-income and middle-income countries. Globally, 44% of diabetes, 23% of ischaemic heart disease and 7–41% of certain cancers are attributable to overweight and obesity.

For an individual, obesity is usually the result of an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.

An increased consumption of highly calorific foods, without an equal increase in physical activity, leads to an unhealthy increase in weight. Decreased levels of physical activity will also result in an energy imbalance and lead to weight gain

Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices and preventing obesity.

Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle, and are supported to make healthy choices.

Children’s choices, diet and physical activity habits are influenced by their surrounding environment.

Social and economic development as well as policies in the areas of agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, education, food processing, distribution and marketing influence children’s dietary habits and preferences as well as their physical activity patterns. Increasingly, these influences are promoting unhealthy weight gain leading to a steady rise in the prevalence of childhood obesity.

Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy body.

People should engage in adequate levels of physical activity throughout their lives.

At least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity physical activity on most days reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.

Muscle strengthening and balance training can reduce falls and improve mobility among older adults. More activity may be required for weight control.

So how do we combat this obesity problem and change the direction that our nation is heading.

As I said before: Set realistic goals.

Key Components Are: Activity; lifestyle; proper Meals.

FIVE Simple tips that can help:

Plan your meals: By planning your meals, you prevent making poor choices later.

Prepare your own meals: Fast foods may be high in sugar and fat content that may not be healthy for you.

Eat Fresh: Fresh fruits and vegetables are a way to control your calorie intake. Processed foods may have ingredients that may be very high in caloric value.

Desserts are treats: I tell my patients that desserts like cakes and sweets are treats. Limit to special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries etc.

Avoid mindless eating: Focus on your meal. Avoid eating on the run or while watching TV etc. When you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing, you end up eating more.

For those who have tried medical weight loss, diet and exercise, but just cannot succeed in losing the weight, you may be a candidate for weight loss surgery.


DR Bernie Hanna is a bariatric surgery and general surgery doctor whose family hails from Aklins and Inagua, although he grew up in Nassau. He attended Queen’s College and was on the swim team and ran track and field. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1991 from Barry University, Miami, Florida, with a BS in Biology. He completed his post-graduate training in General Surgery and his surgical residency at Howard University College of Medicine. He went on to complete his advanced laparoscopic training at The George Washington University Medical Center.He established the Weight Loss Institute of The Bahamas.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment