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Big data to crack what's making Ghana obese


People’s eating habits, exercise rates, genes and vital statistics will be scrutinised in a nation-wide £350,000 government funded study to pinpoint obesity causes in Ghana.

Four in ten Ghanaians are overweight or obese and experts fear that’s part of an upward curve that left unchecked, will cause serious health risks for millions more.

In the country’s first full-scale obesity study, Brunel University London will study 3,000 people in three major cities, Accra, Kumasi and Tamale.

Being obese is a risk factor for a lot of conditions including Covid, heart attack, diabetes and stroke,” said Prof Nana Anokye at Brunel Global Health Academy.

“Obesity is on the rise in Ghana and I think it is due to Westernisation and the introduction of fast food joints and increased adoption of inactive lifestyles.”

Starting in October, the five-year study will ask people yearly about their lifestyle, exercise habits, diet, measure their height and weight and test for genetic markers that flag obesity.

Most obesity research doesn’t factor in the effect of genetic and environmental factors. The Big Data analytics on Obesity in Ghana study will be the first to look the impact of these factors and most importantly over time. The idea is that looking at all these factors together will paint a clearer picture for policy makers about how to stop obesity rising. 

“We want to improve our understanding as to how individual factors, coupled with genetics and environmental conditions may affect obesity,” said Prof Anokye.

“Being obese is not good for the health of the person,” said researcher Kingsley Agyemang. “Neither is it good for the health of the nation."