Chronic diseases and health promotion

Overview - Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment

Story of Malri Twalib

The next generation: Malri Twalib, 5 years old, United Republic of Tanzania (obesity)

Malri Twalib is a five-year-old boy living in a poor rural area of the Kilimanjaro District of Tanzania. Health workers from a nearby medical centre spotted his weight problem last year during a routine community outreach activity. The diagnosis was clear: childhood obesity.

One year later, Malri's health condition hasn't changed for the better and neither has his excessive consumption of porridge and animal fat. His fruit and vegetable intake also remains seriously insufficient – "it is just too hard to find reasonably priced products during the dry season, so I can't manage his diet," his mother Fadhila complains.

The community health workers who recently visited Malri for a follow-up also noticed that he was holding the same flat football as before – the word "Health" stamped on it couldn't pass unnoticed. Malri's neighbourhood is littered with sharp and rusted construction debris and the courtyard is too small for him to be able to play ball games. In fact, he rarely plays outside. "It is simply too hazardous. He could get hurt," his mother says.

Fadhila, who is herself obese, believes that there are no risks attached to her son's obesity and that his weight will naturally go down one day. "Rounded forms run in the family and there's no history of chronic diseases, so why make a big fuss of all this," she argues with a smile on her face. In fact, Malri and Fadhila are at risk of developing a chronic disease as a result of their obesity.