Building a Better India

HT Summit Speakers CartoonThis week I have the good fortune of having been invited to attend and speak at the 2013 Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.

At this Summit, I am in the illustrious company of leaders in politics, business, arts and sports including the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Condoleezza Rice, Imran Khan, Anoushka Shankar and others, who will be discussing everything from economic and urban development to microfinancing and climate change to India’s role and future in the coming decades.

In my session with the rather ambitious title, “Trimming the World”, we will be discussing the many social, economic and health challenges posed by an ever-increasing rise in obesity and diabetes across the Indian subcontinent (not to mention the considerable impact of these problems in the extensive Indian diaspora).

As regular readers may recall, I have previously posted on the particular susceptibility and challenges posed by excess weight in the South Asian population, who appear particularly vulnerable to the consequences of visceral adiposity.

While public health policies and regulations may eventually provide some hope in Western societies (although progress here may also appear to be moving at a glacial pace), the challenges to comprehensive public health approaches for obesity prevention and management in a country like India present a whole different order of magnitude.

Thus, tackling key drivers of obesity including lack of time, sleep, stress, social norms, food insecurity, sedentariness (not to mention the challenges posed by mental health and medical promoters of weight gain) amongst the billion strong population, will prove anything but easy.

With prevention efforts unlikely to take hold in the foreseeable future, many will have no option but to turn to weight management strategies (including a burgeoning market for bariatric surgery) – services that are largely controlled by private enterprise.

As in the West, finding qualified health professionals, who can offer scientifically based obesity interventions is virtually impossible – not least, because we are still not training health professionals to address obesity as a disease.

These and other challenges are sure to make for an interesting session.

Live and archived streams of the Summit can be followed at CNN-IBN and

You can also follow the summit on Twitter (@htTweets #htSummit)

New Delhi, India