Cameroon, which is generally referred to as Africa in miniature because of its diversity, also prides itself to be a melting pot of several cultures. These cultures come with their sets of norms that sometimes act as a fertile ground for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
In the Nkwen community where Ramatu hails from, for example, it is generally believed that “Being fat is a sign of good living and the bigger you are the richer people perceive you to be”. Ramatu held firmly to her beliefs and did not miss any opportunity to put an extra kilo since it did not only mean she was of the upper class, but it also insinuated that her husband was taking care of her. “I have never had any issue with my chubby body, it is an epitome of beauty for me,” Ramatou recounted with some glare in her eyes.
Ramatu’s narrative changed in July 2017 when she took her son for consultation. “At the start, I felt really angry that the nurses had to stop work to explain some health talks I didn’t quite understand. But after a while, something caught my interest and I listened attentively. The service provider pointed a small kiosk to us where we could go there to know our numbers. I was fascinated with what I had just heard and decided to check mine. It was there that the service provider told me, I was obese”.
The discovery at the hospital had kept Ramatou pondering, what if her culture had pushed her to this extreme? Ramatou could not keep this knowledge to herself. She shared the information with her husband who bought the story and took the entire family for screening. “I could see anxiety on my husband’s face when his children and he were declared obese as well.”
To Show love for his family, Ramatou’s husband had stopped his children from exercising and emphasized on very huge meals for the kids. He asked that the children drink tea in mugs with lots of sugar and dairy products. All this was in a bid to fatten the children so that they could be considered ‘healthy’ by the community.
The intervention of the KYN Project has been a pacesetter to changing Ramatu’s family. She and her family have learned to eat sizeable meals, include fruits and vegetables in their meal plans while adding regular exercise as an integral part of their daily lives.
“This initiative was a volte-face experience that inspired me to take that giant step to improve on my health and that of my family. With the pace we were at, death could have just knocked at our door at any time. Now we are making informed choices to revert some damages done in the past,” Ramatou smiled over her narration with a sign of relief.
Like Ramatou and her family, The Know Your Numbers program has made over 4000 families to gain consciousness of their health and to make informed decisions. Thanks to this initiative, mindsets are changing and more people are adopting healthier behaviors in communities where cultural norms stood as the gateway to quality health.