Polynesia wants to use the Games to fight against obesity

Beach soccer, field hockey, basketball, tennis, sack racing, volleyball, va’a (traditional outrigger canoe)…, at the end of March, 170 primary and secondary school students, aged 7 to 11, sweated under a blazing sun on the beach of Temae, in Moorea, an island located half an hour by ferry from Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.

At the start of the Olympic and Paralympic week, it was a question of being part of the perspective of the Paris 2024 meeting to promote the practice of sport and to tackle “to our public health issues in general, and childhood obesity in particular”, as summarized by Ernest Marchal, responsible for the educational district of Punaauia and Moorea-Maiao.

Because if Polynesia will be at the heart of the Olympic summer next year, with the wave of Teahupo’o (Tahiti), which will host the surfing events, another wave is threatening it: according to a 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 79% of adults were overweight on that date – compared to 70% in 2010, the increase being mainly observed in people under 45 – and 48% of the adult population was obese (compared to 40% in 2010). As for children, the latest figures, dating from 2020 and coming from school medicine, show that 11.9% of 5-6 year olds suffer from obesity, and 27% from overweight.

“It’s a major problem. Besides the fact that Polynesia has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, what we see coming is a health tsunami, especially at the cardiovascular level,” is alarmed by Julien Rousseaux, doctor at the Health and Social Action Regulatory Agency. “An obese child will wear out his body prematurely and at barely 25 years old could already be diabetic and hypertensive”, he adds. Aware of this health problem, the local government put the question at the center of the debates on the occasion of the 15e meeting of Pacific health ministers, to be hosted by WHO in Tonga Islands from 20-22 September.

“For us, eating well means eating a lot”

“Here, you will never starve! » : at the Temae stand, where Tahitian mamas served the meals, the large-format plates garnished to the brim with meat and fish in sauce illustrated the local trend for XXL rations with a high caloric content. In fact, corpulences “well-rounded”a sign of social importance, are valued. “For us, eating well means eating a lot. To be fat is to be strong, confirmed surfer Michel Bourezwho is involved in the fight against overweight through his role as Paris 2024 ambador for young people.

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