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Poverty-related

‘If it were ever to rain soup, the poor would only have forks’ – Brazilian proverb

Poverty and disease go hand in hand, not only in so-called developing countries but also in more affluent societies.

‘The fact that 20% of the population has limited access to healthy food – due to financial constraints – has serious consequences’, says Helena Canhão, investigator at the Health Science Faculty of the New University of Lisbon.
‘A poor people’s diet of cheap and fast food leads to obesity and diabetes.’

Obesity is Portugal’s biggest Public Health problem [zwaargewichten].
More than half of the population is too heavy, 75% of the elderly and nearly a third of all children.
Obesity is more common in the poor and rural parts of the country, in particular the Alentejo province.

People with primary school only are 3 times more often obese than higher educated people, who are not only better informed, but also earn more and can afford a healthy diet with fresh nutrients.

‘That social inequality has an impact on health is beyond doubt.
People who have access to a Mediterranean diet are socially more privileged’, says Pedro Graça, director of the National Program for the Promotion of Healthy Nutrition.

The average Portuguese eats for two, meaning almost 4000 calories per person per day!
Not only is this far too much, the quality of food is also poor. It contains three times the recommended amount of meat, fish and eggs and only half the amount of vegetables.

And although Portuguese cherish their daily bowl of soup, it is often too salty. Moreover, the intake of alcohol and soda is considerable. Nearly a quarter of all men and at least 10% of women drink too much and half the population consumes soft drinks on a daily basis.

As a result of the obesity epidemic diabetes is very common and Portugal even has the highest prevalence of diabetes in Europe. One in every 7 citizens is affected and 25% of the people – who die in hospital – have diabetes. The risk to get the disease is four times higher in people, who haven’t completed primary school – a number twice as high in Portugal, than elsewhere in Europe.

‘We are wasting our money on the wrong side’, says Luis Correia, head of the Diabetes Observatory. Treatment of diabetes now devours 12% of our national health budget. It would be much cheaper to prevent the disease instead.’

BOM FIM DE SEMANA                                                    (photos Observador/SAPO)

Heavyweight

Parliament proposes measures against heavy schoolbags.

While the Government is struggling with the aftermath of the most brutal wildfires in history – killing more than 100 people – political parties in Parliament made recommendations last week to reduce the weight of school bags, after a petition on that matter – initiated by actor JoséWallenstein – had yielded more than 50.000 public signatures in February.

According to the Consumer Defence Association (DECO), two-thirds of the Portuguese schoolchildren carry backpacks, that are too heavy.

But does that matter?

Apparently, as studies from several countries indicate that children carrying backpacks exceeding 10% of their bodyweight – the upper limit according to the World Health Organization – are more likely to get neck, shoulder and back pain. There is, however, no evidence that carrying heavy bags cause any lasting deformity such as scoliosis, which is a persistent curvature of the spine.

The propositions on schoolbags had been prepared for some months by a special parliamentary working group – coordinated by Amadeu Albergaria of the Social Democratic Party (PSD).

The final resolution – supported by all parties – recommends more lockers in schools, expansion of digital learning tools in class, thinner manuals and books with lightweight paper, permanent instead of variable classrooms and better collaboration between teachers regarding the frequency and amount of homework.

The parliamentarians moreover, propose a national awareness campaign to better monitor the weight of schoolbags by teachers, parents and students and the Directorate-General for Health will be asked to perform a study on the effect of the weight of the schoolbags on children’s health.

Backpacks are best for backs because they have two shoulder straps – a bag carried on one shoulder is more likely to cause pain. The bags should be packed evenly and carry only what is needed for that day. Children should be encouraged to use school lockers for items they don’t need all day.

BOM FIM DE SEMANA                                                                                                 (photo’s Observador/Sapo)