Cardiologist speaks out on ‘obese’ fashion show

A parliamentarian, last week, sought a heart specialist’s opinion on what could be the downside of the ‘plus-size’ modelling show held in Kigali earlier this month.  “What message is that kind of show passing on to the population? Is it good, or bad, especially now that we are urging the public to cut weight?” Faith Mukakalisa asked Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi during a dialogue on cardiovascular diseases at the Parliamentary Buildings, Kimihurura.
Dr Joseph Mucumbitsi, the chairman of the Rwandan Heart Foundation. The New Times / Timothy Kisambira.
Dr Joseph Mucumbitsi, the chairman of the Rwandan Heart Foundation. The New Times / Timothy Kisambira.

A parliamentarian, last week, sought a heart specialist’s opinion on what could be the downside of the ‘plus-size’ modelling show held in Kigali earlier this month.

“What message is that kind of show passing on to the population? Is it good, or bad, especially now that we are urging the public to cut weight?” Faith Mukakalisa asked Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi during a dialogue on cardiovascular diseases at the Parliamentary Buildings, Kimihurura.

This came after Dr. Joseph Mucumbitsi, the chairman of the Rwandan Heart Foundation, highlighted obesity, unhealthy diet, alcohol, and physical inactivity, as top causes of heart diseases.

Worried that such shows could be counterproductive to in efforts to sensitise the population about the dangers of obesity, the lawmaker said she was dismayed by what she saw on TV. “I heard one participant say; ‘I am healthy’ and another said she weighed 150 kilos, is 20 years old but said ‘I am really fit and well!”

The well-attended inaugural Alga Plus-Size fashion show, held at Kigali Serena Hotel, early this month, saw ‘over-size’ models showcase collections from local boutiques.

Mucumbitsi told legislators that, on one hand, the ‘plus-size’ show helped instil self-confidence in obese people. He, however, admitted that the public should know the other side of obesity.

“There is no way a 20 year-old can weigh 150 kilos and then says she is healthy! That is not possible! It means, even if she is hanging on, in about 10 years time, she will have diabetes, hypertension,” observed Mucumbitsi.

“That show should go hand-in-hand with education. However, we cannot stop them from holding it. I believe it was a private initiative, but, at least, there should be a responsible person who says what is right”.

The cardiologist partly blames the problem on culture, where Rwandan parents are deluded in believing that the fatter the children, the healthier they are.

He noted that there are mind-set issues where some people consider obesity as a sign of prestige. The medic also said that diabetes was associated with heart diseases. “When you have excess weight, you have the risk of contracting diabetes. When you have diabetes, the risk is even higher to getting a heart disease. They are connected.” Dr Mucumbitsi.

Heart diseases claim over 17 million lives a year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Despite Rwanda having relatively lower cases, doctors want Parliament to help advocate for more preventive efforts.

They urge Rwandans to maintain healthy diets – more vegetables and fruits – and also request government to consider putting up more sports facilities in schools and residential areas.

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