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Obesity in Southeast Asia

At present, it is estimated that more than 30 million adults live with obesity in Southeast Asia1. The trend of obesity in Southeast Asia is alarming, increasing by nearly 40% from 1990 to 20132,3. It is projected that this figure will increase to over 52.4 million adults in 20304. Several Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam, are amongst those with the most rapid rise in obesity rates from 1995 to 2016 globally and this increase is expected to continue5,6.

Obesity is also a significant cause of mortality. In 2017, it was estimated that there are more than 330,000 deaths annually from obesity-related complications in ASEAN countries7.

The obesity epidemic puts an economic burden on health systems across the region. In 2018, the Asian Development Bank Institute estimated that the direct and indirect costs of overweight and obesity in Southeast Asia are $7.5 billion (7.7% of total healthcare expenditure) and $3.8 billion (5.1% of total healthcare expenditure), respectively8. The significance of this economic burden, especially as countries across Southeast Asia are working towards universal health coverage, urgently indicates that governments, communities and individuals must take collective action to stem the rising rates of obesity and associated costs.

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About OPEN SEA

OPEN Southeast Asia (OPEN SEA) is a sustained initiative, where members come together to identify new ways to deliver meaningful change for people with obesity, healthcare systems and society at large, as well as collectively drive the understanding for a whole systems approach to obesity in Southeast Asia.

Mission and remit

OPEN SEA was established with the objectives to:

  • Increase recognition of obesity as a major health condition equitable to a chronic disease
  • Build an ecosystem conducive to reducing obesity by promoting shared responsibility of obesity prevention and management
  • Support national and regional coalitions to ensure people living with obesity across the life-course are integrated into obesity care
  • Provide a sustained platform to enable best practice sharing

Key Achievements

 
OPEN SEA was launched in November 2021, with its first inaugural meeting attended by 50 stakeholders from 11 countries, comprising of policymakers, medical practitioners, public health representatives and academics. During the meeting, stakeholders discussed the barriers and opportunities, as well as what should be prioritised in a regional action plan to improve obesity care and management for people living with obesity.

In January 2022, a local chapter in Malaysia, MY OPEN, was launched to support and localise regional initiatives, as well as drive national action plans to address the rising obesity challenge in the country.

Priorities in 2022 and beyond

  • Host an annual meeting and regular best practice sessions, so stakeholders can gain insights from other regions and collaborate to drive regional advocacy and action
  • Develop the foundations of a patient network at a regional level to empower and support patients with a platform to discuss key topics, including bias, stigma and advocacy
  • Disseminate an obesity consensus in South and Southeast Asia to address the lack of updated and practical clinical guidelines, as well as drive wider adoption and policy advocacy in the region
  • Develop a patient report, to showcase first-hand perspectives of obesity care and management in the region
  • Connect and formalise partnerships with other obesity-related organisations to expand the OPEN SEA network
  • Set up a local chapter in Singapore, OPEN Singapore, with the aim to develop a core working group to champion national action plans

Participating countries

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Malaysia
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Singapore

OPEN SEA: Co-chairs

  • Brian Oldfield, President, Asia-Oceania Association for the Study of Obesity (AOASO) and Vice-President, World Obesity Federation (WOF)
  • Dr Kwang-Wei Tham, Secretary, AOASO and President, Singapore Association for the Study of Obesity (SASO)

 OPEN SEA: Delegates who participated in the inaugural meeting

 Bangladesh

  • Md. Faruque Pathan, Professor of Endocrinology & Director, BIRDEM Academy & Former President, Bangladesh Endocrine Society, Dhaka Bangladesh
  • Muhammad Hafizur Rahman, Senior Consultant, Endocrinology and Metabolism, United Hospital
  • Indrajit Prasad, Professor (Diabetes and Endocrinology), Dhaka Medical College and Hospital
  • Dr Tanjina Hossain, Assistant Professor, Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism, Green Life Medical College & Hospital

Brunei Darussalam

  • Dr Hjh Norhayati Hj Md Kassim, Head, Health Promotion Center, Brunei
  • Dr Alice Yong, Head of Endocrine Unit, JPMC Brunei

 Cambodia

  • Dr Kol Hero, Director, Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health
  • Dr Chhun Loun, Chief of Non Communicable Diseases Bureau, Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health

Indonesia

  • Sidartawan Soegondo, Endocrinologist, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, University of Indonesia; Director of Diabetes Connection & Care Eka Hospital BSD, Indonesia
  • Dr Dicky L Tahapary, Endocrinologist, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, University of Indonesia; Indonesian Society for the Study of Obesity; Member of Diabetes Connection & Care Eka Hospital BSD, Indonesia

 Lao People’s Democratic Republic

  • Dr Bouxou Keohavong, General Director, Food and Drug Department
  • Dr Savang Khunsavanh, Physician, 103 Military Hospital
  • Dr Chanthone Saysanavong, Physician, Setthathirath Hospital
  • Dr Viengxay Vansilalom, Deputy Director, Food and Drug Department
  • Dr Manithong Vonglokham, Deputy Director, Lao Tropical and Public Health Institute
  • Dr Vadsana Vongvanhdy, Chief Endocrinologist, Mahosod Hospital, Vientiane

 Malaysia

  • Dr Nur Azurah Abdul Ghani, Head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Department, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM
  • Dr Rohana Abdul Ghani, Consultant Endocrinologist, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Technology MARA
  • Mr Nazli Suhardi bin Ibrahim, Deputy Director, Nutrition Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia
  • Dr Mastura Ismail, Deputy Director, Primary Care, Family Health Development Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia
  • Mrs Khairul Zarina Mohd Yusop, Principal Assistant Director, Nutrition Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia
  • Dr Masni Mohamad, Consultant Endocrinologist, Hospital Putrajaya
  • Dr Norlaila Mustafa, Head of Medical Department, Senior Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist, Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM
  • Prof. Dr Zubaidah Nor Hanipah, Clinical Consultant in General Surgery, Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University Putra Malaysia
  • Dato’ Sri Dr Azhari Rosman, Senior Consultant Cardiologist, National Heart Institute
  • Dr Muhammad Yazid Jalaludin, Senior Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist, University Malaya Medical Centre

 Myanmar

  • Than Than Aye, Emeritus Professor, Sr Consultant Physician, University of Medicine 2, Yangon
  • Tint Swe Latt, President, Myanmar Diabetes Association and Emeritus Professor, University of Medicine 2, Yangon

 Philippines

  • Dr Mia Fojas, Past President, Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity and Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Dr Nemencio Nicodemus, Jr., President, Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight & Obesity
  • Mr Jim Saret, Wellness Coach, FitFil Philippines
  • Ma. Esmeralda C. Silva, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Administration of the College of Public Health, University of the Philippines-Manila
  • Mr Alfred Vargas (Represented by his Chief Legislative Officer, Vince Liban), Congressman, House of Representatives of the Philippines
  • Prof. Zenaida Velasco, President, Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines

 Singapore

  • Ms Eer Ling Lee, Deputy Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management, Health Promotion Board
  • Dr June Lee, President, Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society of Singapore
  • Mr Yinn Liang Ong, Manager, Physical Activity and Weight Management, Health Promotion Board
  • Mr Aaron Sim, Assistant Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management, Health Promotion Board
  • Ms Audrey Tong, Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management, Health Promotion Board
  • Ms Sunitha Vijiyasingam, Director, Strategic Planning and Collaborations, Health Promotion Board
  • Assistant Prof. Tee Joo Yeo, Consultant Cardiologist and Director, Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit, National University Heart Centre Singapore, Consultant Cardiologist and Singapore Heart Foundation

 Sri Lanka

  • Prasad Katulanda, Consultant Endocrinologist, University of Colombo, National Hospital of Sri Lanka
  • Dr Noel Somasundaram, Endocrinologist, Diabetologist, National Hospital of Sri Lanka

 Vietnam

  • Dr Thi Kim Thanh Ho, Director of Family Medicine and Community Healthcare Center, Hanoi Medical University
  • Mrs Thị Tuyết Mai Kiều, Health Economist, Hanoi University of Pharmacy
  • Dr Huong Duong Phan, Vice Director, National Hospital of Endocrinology
  • Huu Dang Tran, President, Vietnam Association of Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • Dr Quang Nam Tran, Director of Endocrinology Department, HCM Medical University
  • Dr Le Van Ngoc Truong, Non-communicable diseases expert, Ministry of Health
  • Dr Quynh Trang Vu, Treatment expert, National Hospital of Endocrinology

References

1 World Obesity Federation. (2022). Global Obesity Observatory. Prevalence of adult overweight & obesity (%). [Online]. Available from: https://data.worldobesity.org/tables/prevalence-of-adult-overweight-obesity-2/
2 Ng M, Fleming T, Robinson M, et al. (2014). Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 384(9945):766-781.
3 Helble M and Sato A (eds). (2018). Wealthy but unhealthy: Overweight and obesity in Asia and the Pacific: Trends, costs, and policies for better health. Japan (Tokyo): Asian Development Bank.
4 World Obesity Federation (2022). World Obesity Atlas 2022. [Online]. Available from: https://www.worldobesity.org/resources/resource-library/world-obesity-atlas-2022
5 NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. (2017). Worldwide trends in bodymass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents, and adults. Lancet. 390:2627–2642.
6World Obesity Federation. (2020). Obesity: missing the 2025 global targets: Trends, costs and country reports. London: World Obesity Federation.
7Ritchie H & Roser M. Obesity. Our World in Data. [Online]. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/obesity
8Helble M and Sato A (eds). (2018). Wealthy but unhealthy: Overweight and obesity in Asia and the Pacific: Trends, costs, and policies for better health. Japan (Tokyo): Asian Development Bank.