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More women are obese, says report

Health & Science
 A young black couple outdoors, outside their home. They are standing, arms around each other, smiling. The woman is overweight. The man is mixed race Caucasian and African American. (Photo: Courtesy) 

The rate at which women are getting obese has reached worrying levels, the Ministry of Health has warned.

In a mid-term review of its five-year national strategic plan to improve the health sector, the ministry notes an increase in cases of overweight and obesity has been observed in all counties.

At least one in every seven women was reported to be obese, reveals the review of the Kenya Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2018.

The review carried out in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and completed in August also reveals deteriorating service delivery in the sector.

“Kenya has observed a dramatic increase in obesity in a very short time. For instance, women with obesity increased from seven per cent to 13 per cent between 2009 and 2015. The rate of obesity among women in the country has reached epidemic proportions,” says the review.

However the rate of obesity in the counties varied by more than five-fold between regions, ranging from less than 15 per cent in northern Kenya to over 45 per cent in cities and Central region.

Two-thirds of all obese women, the review shows, live in 10 counties with the top three, Nairobi having 216,745, Kiambu 101,365 and Mombasa 71,728 cases.

Nearly one million women, aged 15-49, are obese.

According to the review, latest data from all over the country showed alarming rates of outpatient cases with raised high blood pressure.

Although it estimates that almost a quarter of adult Kenyans have high blood pressure challenges, only four per cent are receiving treatment.

The review also shows the public health sector has failed to meet crucial targets set out to improve Kenyans’ lives in the last three years.

Adult Kenyans

The national strategy, among others things, promised to halt, treat and reverse the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and attendant risk factors.

It shows a decline in child immunisation and almost total failure in prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases.

“Counties in Central region and, to a lesser extent, Eastern had a much higher prevalence of raised blood pressure than elsewhere in Kenya.”

Another major health problem facing Kenyans, the report says, is diabetes, with an estimated prevalence of 1.6 per cent. However, only about half of these had been diagnosed and the disease controlled in only four per cent by last year.

Equally, the number of women screened for cervical cancer remained low at less than 17 per cent, ranging from zero per cent in Wajir to 54 per cent in Mombasa.

According to the review, there is no system to monitor the percentage of cancer patients admitted in hospitals.

The ministry says NCDs such as cancers, heart diseases and diabetes represent almost up to 70 per cent of all hospital admissions and up to half of all inpatient mortality.

“There is no evidence of reductions in these trends,” says the review.

The report presents evidence showing more children missed lifesaving vaccines last year compared to 2014.

“Even though immunisation coverage in infants is still about 80 per cent, there has been a decline in more than two-thirds of the counties and nationally,” says the review.

Full immunisation coverage levels in 34 of the 47 counties in 2015-2016 was lower than in the previous financial year.

A total of 290,000 children were not fully immunised last year, with Nairobi, Narok, and Bungoma the three worst performing counties.

While the review claims major success in antiretroviral coverage of HIV patients, this is dampened by what it says are increasing cases of new infections, estimated at about 100,000 annually.

The ministry is upbeat about its achievement against malaria despite missing 2016 targets to reduce inpatient deaths from the current 11 per cent to eight per cent.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the review highlighted areas where significant progress had been made and those where greater efforts were required to improve health care delivery.

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