A new study has revealed that obesity and diabetes among African migrants living in Europe and in urban Ghana have risen from one per cent to 10 per cent over the last 10 years.
The Research on Obesity and Diabetes among African Migrants (RODAM) study also reveals that 70 per cent of the urban population in Ghana are obese, while 90 per cent of African migrants in Berlin, London and Amsterdam are also obese, exposing such people to obesity and Type 2 diabetes (T2D) in the long run.
Among men in urban Ghana, the prevalence of T2D is five times higher as compared to Ghanaian men in Berlin who were 11 times prone to the disease.
Among women, T2D prevalence is 2.5 times higher in urban Ghanaians as compared to the five times higher rate of Ghanaian women based in Berlin.
For obesity, the prevalence is five times higher in urban Ghanaian men compared to the 10 times prevalence rate of Ghanaian men based in London.
The rate at which these people are becoming obese and diabetic is mainly associated to the inability of people to engage in physical activity, their eating habits, as well as their life styles, and genetics, Professor Charles Agyemang, Associate Professor at the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, told media personnel in Accra.
Speaking in an interview on the side-lines of the RODAM study conference held on Monday in Accra, Prof Agyeman said the situation should be a matter of concern to everybody, especially, civil society and governments who would have to spend scarce resources to import medicines to treat such people.
With the growing burden of obesity, T2D and related complications among African migrants in Europe and within Africa, European and African partners initiated the RODAM project in 2012 to assess the burden of obesity and diabetes on societies.
The project was also to unravel the potential factors contributing to the rising levels of obesity and diabetes among these populations in both Europe and Africa with the support of the European Commission.
The RODAM consortium, therefore, conducted one of the largest health assessment study among African migrants and their compatriots living in Africa.
The study focused on Ghanaians living in three European cities namely Amsterdam, Berlin and London, on one part, and Ghanaians living in rural and urban Ghana.
The study sought to identify important lifestyles changes and the social, psychosocial, biological and epigenetic factors contributing to the high burden of obesity and T2D and other health outcomes.
Prof Agyeman said the study also indicated that Ghanaians living in urban centres are more prone to diabetes and obesity than their counterparts in rural areas because the latter “do more physical activities and eat more healthy food while the former ate mainly oily foods and do not exercise regularly”.
He said so far, the team of health experts from the University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Amsterdam and the International Diabetes Association were leading the three year programme.
The experts have already finished with the data collection phase and are now analysing and sharing results with stakeholders to help find out what predisposes people into getting such diseases.
Prof Ernest Aryeetey, Vice- Chancellor of the University of Ghana, said the aim of the conference was to discuss the key findings of the RODAM study with policy makers, researchers, academicians and next generation scientists.
He said the conference was also to help determine how the findings of the study could be used to help develop prevention strategies and clinical management of obesity and diabetes among Ghanaians at home and abroad.