The Jakarta Post
The number of early smokers and obese people, as well as chronic, non-infectious disease sufferers in Indonesia is increasing according to the country’s latest basic health survey.
The 2018 Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas), published on Friday, revealed that the prevalence of Indonesian adults with weight problems had increased from 14.8 percent in 2013 to 21.8 percent this year.
In the survey, it was found that 31 percent of Indonesians aged 15 and above had central obesity, a term to describe excessive fat around the abdomen, which is defined as a girth of more than 80 centimeters for women and more than 90 cm for men.
This year’s health survey also found that the prevalence of early smokers has risen as well. The prevalence of smokers aged 10 to 18 years old increased to 9.1 percent from 7.2 percent in 2013, even though the government has targeted a reduction in the number of early smokers to 5.2 percent in the 2015-2019 National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN).
The head of the Health Ministry’s research and development department, Siswanto, said he was concerned about the steep increase in early smokers.
“Our survey found that smoking among teenagers is increasing. This is why educating them is very important,” Siswanto said during the Riskesdas launch at the Health Ministry.
Siswanto went on to say that the government would try its best to reduce the prevalence of early smokers through an educational approach.
He also expected that an educational approach could be implemented for adult smokers, resulting in them changing their ways and curbing their smoking habits.
“Since children look up to adults, it is important for adults to set a proper example,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) has also increased. Cancer prevalence increased from 1.4 percent in 2013 to 1.8 percent, stroke prevalence increased to 10.9 percent from 7 percent, and that of chronic kidney disease increased from 6.9 to 8.5 percent.
The survey also revealed that based on blood glucose tests at health facilities nationwide, the prevalence of diabetes increased from 6.9 to 8.5 percent, while blood pressure test results from health facilities nationwide suggested that the prevalence of hypertension increased from 25.8 to 34.1 percent.
Health Minister Nila F. Moeloek said the ministry was currently focusing on how to reduce the prevalence of NCDs. She also urged Indonesians to maintain a healthy lifestyle given that most of the diseases were caused by unhealthy habits.
“We’re eating too much rich food. A lot of the food in our country is too rich because it contains a high amount of salt and sugar,” she said, adding that it would be quite a difficult task to overcome this issue since it involved lifestyle changes.
Despite the increasing number of health risks, the study also revealed that the government managed to reduce the prevalence of stunting from 37.2 to 30.2 percent.
However, although the prevalence of stunting in Indonesia has significantly decreased, Siswanto said it was still too high, the World Health Organization (WHO) standard is below 20 percent. Iing Mursalin, lead program manager for stunting at the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Alleviation (TNP2K), said the decrease in stunting coupled with the growing rate of obesity among adults showed that the country was prospering. He said at least 17 nations in the world were in the same phase as Indonesia.
“Obesity is not good. It leads to a higher number of people with non-communicable diseases, like diabetes or cardiovascular problems,” he said.
Nutritionist Samuel Oentoro said obesity was not limited to well-off people only.
“Since obesity happens because of unhealthy eating patterns, it doesn’t exclusively occur among better-off people. If someone eats too much rice, for example, they will gain a lot of weight in a short time as well,” Samuel told The Jakarta Post on Friday.