It seems to me as a casual observer that there is a health crisis here in Jakarta. I may be wrong but to my untrained eyes at least 50 per cent of the population is overweight, some very overweight! Is it true?

Well, perhaps there are statistics but I haven’t found them yet. Now fatness, health and fitness are not necessarily the same thing but research has shown that being overweight does lead to health problems and certainly makes getting and staying fit more difficult. Not a good start.

Next there is a story going round that Indonesia is the world’s worst country for diabetes and again I’m not sure if facts back this up but the simple linkage between Indonesia’s favourite foods, goreng-gorengan, mie, nasi and a penchant for coffee and tea with lots of sugar certain leads us in that direction.

So what does that tell us? Well let’s quickly look at history. Only a generation, max two, ago Indonesia was an agrarian society with healthy, hardworking people and living was off-the land. Fit, strong and slim, but without access to medical facilities. Fast forward to today’s demographic with 70 per cent of the population now urban, eating fast or processed foods, sitting on motorcycles or in cars, and mostly without access to parks, fields or places for walking or exercise. What a change and not for the better.

So there is probably a crisis happening, slowly, as the weight and diet lead inexorably to diabetes and heart problems. The last city government tried to create parks (and succeeded in some areas) but without much impact on exercise levels because there is one thing missing in all this: education, which is the core of health consciousness, without which the general population simply will not change their habits because they don’t understand the absolute, total necessary for doing so.

I recently held a seminar as part of our MVB Sustainability programme at which the Indonesian CEO of Johnson & Johnson spoke. He told us about Johnson & Johnson’s programme to make their own employees as fit and healthy as possible. There were three reasons for doing so he said, one for the individuals themselves who feel better and happier the healthier they get, their families who benefit from an active, fit and focused parent, and finally the company who gets a productive, clear thinking, proactive employee.

This, such a brilliant, simple, important concept it’s hard to believe not everyone does it. But they don’t. So my suggestion for the rest of the year is that we all try to get healthier and fitter for all the above reasons, and because then Jakarta itself can be considered as a healthier and happier city!


Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.