The most comprehensive global study ever conducted for obesity has recently been released and the need for serious action in the whole population is no longer a subject of debate. The main conclusions of the study are grim reading -. not a single country there was a decline in obesity in the last 30 years
However, between 1980 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight and obesity worldwide increased by 27.5% among adults. What is even more worrying is that overweight and obesity in children rose by nearly half (47.1%) in just three decades. Emmanuela Gakidou, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and author of the study, believes the evidence is clear that obesity is trending way.
Unlike other major global health risks, such as snuff and child nutrition, obesity is not decreasing worldwide. Our results show that the increased prevalence of obesity are substantial, widespread, and have emerged over a short time.
Earth is now home to about 2.1 million people with overweight and obesity, with only ten countries representing over half the world’s population obese: US (13%), China and India (15% combined), Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia. Among high-income countries, Australia and New Zealand saw the largest increases.
Get them when they are young
The good news is that there is an emerging consensus on where we should focus our strategies for obesity prevention -. In children
The latter study tells us the greatest increases in adulthood were found among people aged between 20 and 40 years, but the highest prevalence of obesity has slowly moved to ages every time younger over the past 33 years. The well evaluated studies, including several of Australia, show that long-term reduction of childhood obesity are possible.
In the face of a reality check as surprising, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a commission to end childhood obesity at its annual meeting last week. Obesity in childhood is a strong predictor of obesity in adults and children are much more sensitive than adults to interventions that provide healthy food and physical activity environments -. So it makes sense to intervene as soon as possible
Children who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of asthma, cognitive impairment, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, respiratory diseases, more mental and reproductive disorders later in life. There is also a negative impact on opportunities to participate in educational and recreational activities, and increased the economic burden on family and social level.
All evidence points to the need to act in multiple configurations. The challenge facing the new commission will be how to encourage countries to invest in this approach on a large scale. It will not be an easy task.
The Commission will prepare a report which approaches specified and which combinations of interventions are likely to be more effective in different contexts around the world. While many countries have adopted many high-level documents, such as recommendations on reducing marketing of unhealthy food and drinks for children, is its application at country level is absent.
Multiple actors, including those responsible for food processing, marketing and retail, maternal health and nutrition, child health, education and health literacy, physical activity, and public policy, will be called by the Commission to play its role in transforming the best available evidence into a coherent and workable plan.
No small order
The heads of state were challenged by the United Nations in 2011 to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes in 2015. The UN asked governments for a special meeting to address the challenges of obesity and other risk behaviors to health, such as snuff and alcohol abuse, and reduce the global burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCD) such as disease heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The new commission to end childhood obesity is part of the Global Action Plan WHO to reduce these diseases and meet the objectives of 2025.
However, the authors of the new global study of obesity believe their findings cast doubt on the feasibility of achieving the goal of “no increase” for obesity. Gakidou predicts that will go well far from reality unless urgent global action and leadership are launched to help countries more effectively involved. She said:
Our analysis suggests that the UN target to halt the rise in obesity by 2025 is very ambitious and is unlikely to be achieved without concerted action and further research to evaluate the effect of interventions throughout the population, and how to effectively translate that knowledge into national programs of control of obesity.
Governments around the world have been slow in coming to terms with the enormous burden of obesity. It is certainly one of the major public health problems in the 21st century, and the main reason behind rising rates of diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease. Any recommendations presented at the World Health Assembly 2015 by the new Commission will be an important step in today’s global approach, which is to perform normally, whether countries will actually deliver on ending childhood obesity and her adult obesity.
1. Kyle Turner, D. Phil. Candidate in Population Health at the University of Oxford
2. Boyd Swinburn, professor Alfred Deakin University Deakin