Walking to halt rising obesity in Turkey

Ministry of Health, Turkey

Malatya province, Turkey, walk against obesity on 27 April 2014

On Sunday, 27 April, thousands of people walked in Istanbul to support the obesity prevention programme. Along with Dr Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, Minister of Health; Mr Kadir Topbaş, Istanbul’s Greater City Mayor; and Mr Mustafa Taşdemir, Istanbul’s Public Health Director, they were participating in one of the monthly organized events resulting from the declaration of 2014 as a year for healthy lifestyles and physical activity.

“Obesity is one of the major health concerns of our age,” stated the Minister of Health, “It causes many health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, certain cancers and respiratory diseases, and adversely affects quality of life and life expectancy. A major contributor to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle, but exercising for 30 minutes, 5 days a week would be enough to maintain health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and colon and breast cancer.”

Similar events were held across Turkey. In Malatya province, Professor Seçil Özkan, President of the Public Health Institution of the Ministry of Health; Mr Öznur Çalik, Member of Parliament for Malatya; Mr Ahmet Sait Kurnaz; Deputy Governor; and Mr Ahmet Çakir, Mayor of Malatya City, joined the walk on 27 April.

Professor Özkan said, “The results of the Turkish nutrition and health survey suggest that 71.9% of the population do not engage in regular physical activity. Physical inactivity is a common risk factor for chronic diseases and ranks number four – ahead of obesity – on the list of risk factors leading to death. It is estimated to be the main cause of 21–25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes cases and 30% of ischaemic heart disease cases.”

The Ministry of Health has implemented a number of policies, such as the obesity prevention programme, to combat this growing and deadly trend by helping to identify and implement policies that aim to halt and ideally reverse the rise in obesity in Turkey.

Member States in the WHO European Region signed the European Charter on Counteracting Obesity in Istanbul, Turkey in November 2006.