American Samoa’s battle against obesity as 95 per cent of the nation are declared overweight

  • WHO figures reveal extent of the obesity  crisis in the small Pacific island
  • One airline charging passengers tickets  based on their weight to save costs
  • Island-wide health push to encourage  healthier eating and more activity

By  Helen Collis

PUBLISHED: 11:58 EST, 8 July  2013 |  UPDATED: 11:59  EST, 8 July 2013


It has been officially ranked the fattest  population in the world – with estimates as high as 94 per cent  obesity.

The sheer scale of the problem has prompted  both public and private sector organisations to take action.

One airline has has become unpopular with the  locals by making every passenger stand on a set of scales with their luggage and  making them pay according to their individual weight.

Officially fattest: Islanders living on the beautiful American Samoa archipelago are officially the fattest in the world, according to WHO figures 

Officially fattest: Islanders living on the beautiful  American Samoa archipelago are officially the fattest in the world, according to  WHO figures


An American Samoan manAmerican Samoan local women performing a cultural show

Local American Samoans performing a cultural show; the  island’s inhabitants have been ranked the fattest in the world

While the healthcare sector is actively  encouraging the island’s inhabitants to pursue healthier lifestyles in a bid to  prevent the ticking time-bomb of health complications later in life, associated  with obesity.

The American-owned island, which forms part  of the Samoan archipelago chain in the Pacific Ocean, only has a population of  700,000, according to a 2013 census.


But, according to World Health Organization  records, 94 per cent, or 658,000 of them are overweight.

The dire statistic is blamed on an unhealthy  fast-food culture, influenced by its mainland powerhouse, and a penchant for a  sedentary lifestyle.

Almost all of the food in American Samoa is  imported and therefore expensive, but fast-food chains offer a cheap and  convenient alternative.


1. American Samoa – 94 per cent

2. Kiribati, Central Pacific – 82 per  cent

3. French Polynesia – 74 per cent

4. Saudi Arabia – 73 per cent

5. Panama – 67.4 per cent

6. The U.S. – 66.9 per cent

7. Germany – 66.5 per cent

8. Egypt – 66 per cent

9. Kuwait – 64 per cent

10. Bosnia and Herzegovina – 63 per  cent

11. New Zealand – 62.7 per cent

12. Malta – 62.3 per cent

13. Israel – 61.9 per cent

14. Croatia – 61.4 per cent

15. Bahrain – 61 per cent

16. Macedonia – 60.4 per cent

17. Barbados  – 60.4 per cent

18. Seychelles – 60.1 per cent

19. Canada – 59.1 per cent

20. Chile – 59.7 per  cent

Samoa Air’s new ‘pay-by-weight’ system may be  having an effect on its passengers, however, so perhaps this is the way forward  for fat countries?

The island’s obesity epidemic is at crisis  point, since its population is now giving birth to overweight babies, starting  life with a plethora of health complications.

One study found that at just 15 months old,  40 per cent of boys and 30 per cent of girl babies were classed as overweight.

Being overweight is associated with a  catalogue of awful chronic diseases and health complications, including  hypertension and heart disease, diabetes and subsequent renal failure and liver  disease. It is also linked the asthma, cancer, depression, stroke and problems  associated with digestion.

The implications and burdens of such  crippling chronic diseases, not just to the individual and their relatives, but  also for the the country’s healthcare system, are immense.

But at last, it appears the island’s health  push is apparently sinking in.

An early morning exercise class at the  island’s only sports stadium is attracting more members.

Olivia Reid-Gillet attends twice a week  because she became aware of how serious her weight issues were.

Quoted by CBS News, she said: ‘I needed to  get healthier. I had high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high  cholesterol.’

Clinics including dietary advice, wellness  programmes, and childhood obesity tracking are also being offered to educate  people so they can take more control of their disease.

Local doctor, John Tuitele, told the news  service: ‘The people are being aware of the problem. People are realising the  importance of what we’re trying to get across.’


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