This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

KFC Adds To Obesity Woes in Ghana

My thanks to David Rain for pointing me to a very interesting and detailed article in the NYTimes about the success of KFC fast-food outlets in Ghana. Well, really just in the capital city of Accra. David and I and others have been studying the spatial demography of health in Accra for several years (you can find details here), and obesity has been a growing problem as the country increases in per person income and more Western-style grocery stores and fast-food outlets become the sources of food and meals. KFC's fried chicken didn't create the problem, but it isn't helping, either. 
But KFC’s expansion here comes as obesity and related health problems have been surging. Public health officials see fried chicken, french fries and pizza as spurring and intensifying a global obesity epidemic that has hit hard in Ghana — one of 73 countries where obesity has at least doubled since 1980. In that period, Ghana’s obesity rates have surged more than 650 percent, from less than 2 percent of the population to 13.6 percent, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington.
KFC’s presence in Ghana so far is relatively modest but rapidly growing, and it underscores the way fast food can shape palates, habits and waistlines.
Research shows that people who eat more fast food are more likely to gain weight and become obese, and nutrition experts here express deep concern at the prospect of an increasingly heavy and diabetic population, without the medical resources to address a looming health crisis that some say could rival AIDS.
One of the several photos in the article shows the flagship KFC outlet on Oxford Street in the Osu neighborhood of Accra. I remember walking by it shortly after it opened a few years ago and thinking--this is probably not a good thing for the health of the neighborhood. The story indicates that there are now 13 KFC stores in Ghana, with the majority in Accra--which already has the highest obesity levels in the country. I just put together the map below using data from the 2014 Demographic and Health Survey for Ghana. It shows the percentage of adult women who are obese, based on height and weight measurements by the DHS interviewers. Accra leads the way by a wide margin, and the farther away you get from Accra, the lower is the level of obesity.

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