REG 181217 Egypt overweight
11.7 million out of 17 million found to suffer from health problems Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: Egyptian authorities are planning a large-scale campaign aimed at encouraging people to lose weight after a presidential criticism of high rates of overweight in the Arab world’s most populous country.

Education Minister Tareq Shawqi said Sunday that he had received a presidential order to make physical education a mandatory subject in the country’s schools.

“The ministry is considering how to apply this assignment,” he added.

Several of the government-run schools suffer oversized classrooms and cramped playgrounds.

On Saturday, President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi criticized Egyptians’ physical fitness, saying that as high as 75 per cent of them are overweight or obese.

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An Egyptian man is being checked in a government-run mobile clinic as part of a nationwide medical campaign Image Credit: Supplied

Around 11.7 million out of 17 million checked at an ongoing governmental medical drive have been found to suffer from health problems, according to Al Sissi.

“The media and all state institutions should join hands to launch a massive programme to raise public awareness on health mainly dangers of overweight,” he added in televised remarks.

“The lower the body’s weight and the more activity are the better.”

The Egyptian leader instructed schools and universities to regularly hold jogging and run marathons to help students lose weight.

He also urged different television stations in the country to host guests, who look fit.

In 2016, Egypt’s state television banned some women hosts due to overweight.

“How come people are not taking care of their health? How can they walk or climb the stairs like this? I mean the youth, not the old people,”Al Sissi said on Saturday.

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Government-run mobile clinic as part of a nationwide medical campaign tours neighborhoods Image Credit: Supplied

Since he took office in 2014, Al Sissi, an ex-army chief, has been occasionally seen participating in jogging or cycling rallies.

Al Sissi’s keep-fit call has drawn extensive coverage in the Egyptian media and praise from commentators.

“The nation’s public health has deteriorated due to decline in official interest in physical education classes,” said Abbas Al Tarabeily, a columnist at private newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.

“Revive these classes and provide school playgrounds, whatever the case because what is at stake is the nation’s health,” he added, addressing education officials. “Bravo Egypt’s president for raising the issue.”

In October, Egypt started a multi-stage medical initiative under Al Sissi’s auspices aimed at examining the country’s population of nearly 100 million free of charge for blood pressure, hepatitis C, and obesity.