Poverty is taking a toll on the elderly in Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Rahim Yar Khan, who are unable to procure regular, healthy meals, and are fast becoming the victims of non-communicable diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and hypertension.
Around 65% of people in these districts of age 50 and above are suffering from ill health due to an unbalanced diet, revealed a report titled, “Cross sectional research study on nutritional assessment of population 50 years and above in district Rahim Yar Khan, Jacobabad and Shikarpur”, launched on Monday by HelpAge International Pakistan in collaboration with the Health Services Academy.
Some 42% of the elderly in these districts had only two meals a day, mostly comprising vegetables and pulses. Daily consumption of fruit was reported in just half the sample, while 83% consumed meat just once a month and a mere 5% took multi-vitamin pills.
A male respondent from Jacobabad said, “I would like to have mutton biryani in my diet – but we are a poor community working as daily wage workers.”
“Food prices seem to increase day by day,” he lamented.
“We use cauliflower, potatoes, peas and tomatoes with garlic. We usually cook meat after three or four months,” says one female respondent from Rahim Yar Khan. “Often, we only have meat at religious festivals.”
Some respondents demanded that government should ensure food security measures, particularly targeting aged persons, reveals an assessment report.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Country Director of HelpAge International-Pakistan Ajeeba Aslam said, “In these three districts, people believed that fatty foods, such as ghee, is a source of good health for people of all ages.”
“However there is a need to understand that people above 50 or 60 should not consume such food.”
She added that there was a need to improve awareness about diet, exercise, the risk of obesity and management of chronic illness in older people.”
The cross sectional survey, which is the first of its kind, was conducted in April 2013 to assess the nutritional status, health and dietary habits of men and women aged 50 years and above.
The quantitative parameters measured in 514 people included weight, height, body mass index and mid upper arm circumference.
The report reveals that arthritis, hypertension and diabetes were the top three non-communicable diseases found in this targeted group.
Moreover, the report stated that the prevalence of malnutrition was found to be 9%, 27% were overweight and 21% were obese.
Most of the sample did not follow any regular pattern of physical activity.
The healthcare delivery in Pakistan is based on weak infrastructure resulting in neglect of older population, says the report.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2013.