Indonesia: Overweight and obesity on the rise in all age and income groups
On World Obesity Day, UNICEF says healthy diets must be prioritized as part of the COVID-19 recovery
JAKARTA, 04 March 2022 – With overweight and obesity on the rise in Indonesia – particularly in poor communities and households – UNICEF calls for healthy diets to be prioritized as part of the COVID-19 recovery.
The increased accessibility and affordability of unhealthy foods high in fats, sugar and salt is a major cause of malnutrition in the country. One in three adults, one in five children aged 5-12, and one in seven adolescents aged 13-18 in Indonesia are overweight or obese, according to estimates from the 2018 National Basic Health Research survey.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these trends, as restrictions have made it more difficult for children and young people to access healthy foods and remain physically active. A 2020 survey* conducted among low-income urban households in Jakarta found that children consumed fewer nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables, meat and fish and legumes during the pandemic compared to 2018.
“Millions of children are getting too much of the wrong food, undermining their rights to adequate nutrition and leading to serious and long-term health consequences,” said UNICEF Representative a.i. Robert Gass. “But with the right policies and programmes, decision-makers and businesses can transform the quality of children’s food environments to make safe, healthy and affordable diets available to everyone.”
Overweight and obesity have serious consequences for children, including early onset diabetes and high blood pressure, and psychosocial issues connected with stigma and bullying by peers and poorer educational attainment. Overweight and obese children also have a greater risk of developing a range of life-threatening non-communicable diseases in adult life, such as heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.
These conditions have major economic implications, leading to direct costs for families due to treatment and hospitalization and increased financial burden on health systems. It is estimated that the impact of non-communicable diseases on Indonesia’s economy could lead to a $4.47 trillion loss in economic output from 2012 through 2030.
UNICEF calls for concerted efforts from all actors – national and local authorities, civil society and private sectors – to prioritize policies and programmes that can guarantee children’s rights to adequate nutrition during the pandemic and beyond, which include:
- Putting an end to the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and the use of misleading health claims on products that are in fact unhealthy;
- Adding clear and easy-to-understand front of pack labels that can signal foods high in unhealthy nutrients and make it easier for families to choose healthy options;
- Designing fiscal measures, such as taxation of unhealthy foods and drinks, that make it less appealing to consume these products; and promoting subsidies and other measures that make it more affordable to consume healthy foods;
- Holding food companies accountable and ensuring they provide healthier and more affordable food options, while eliminating and refraining from promoting less healthy ones.
Notes to editor:
- Economics of Non-Communicable Diseases in Indonesia, April 2015
- Food security and nutrition in urban Indonesia: evidence from a remote COVID-19 survey. September 2021.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.