The new WHO plan to fight obesity in Europe

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A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of structural factors in obesity. James Ross/Stocky
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report outlining the lack of progress in controlling rising rates of overweight and obesity in Europe.
  • According to the report, no European country is on track to meet the obesity targets set by the WHO in 2015.
  • The organization proposes to tackle the societal factors that compromise healthy eating.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) created a target to halt a rise in obesity rates as part of their efforts to contain the number of deaths from non-communicable diseases by 2025. According to the WHO Regional Obesity Report 2022, none of the 53 countries of the European region is currently on track to achieve this goal .

The WHO has released a plan to accelerate progress towards reducing obesity which puts less burden on the individual to maintain healthy eating habits.

In a press release announcing the report, the WHO states:

“New WHO report outlines how policy interventions that target the environmental and market determinants of unhealthy diets at the whole population level are likely to be most effective in reversing the obesity epidemic , tackle food inequalities and achieve ecologically sustainable food systems”.

Dr. Joshua Petimar, a researcher in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said Medical News Today“Improving nutrition and health requires us to shift our focus from ‘personal responsibility’ to broader, society-wide solutions.”

“Eating behaviors are negatively influenced by many macroscopic factors, such as predatory industry practices, lack of access to food, unaffordability of healthy foods, etc. Proposed solutions that focus on accountability without targeting societal factors do not address the main threats to the nutrition and health of populations.

The report finds that barriers to implementing effective obesity policies include “the continuing narrative that tackling obesity is the responsibility of the individual and not the responsibility of society at large. , including governments.

Arthur Delcourtregistered dietician and biomedical scientist at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, comments on the report via Twittersaying: “So sad to see that obesity [continues its] the epidemic is raging worldwide. According to the new WHO report, 25% of European citizens [have obesity]… This is a big fail for politicians, public health organizations, medical personnel and researchers.

In the press release, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge emphasizes the universality of the rise in obesity:

“Obesity knows no borders. In Europe and Central Asia, no country will meet the WHO global NCD target of halting the rise in obesity. The countries of our Region are incredibly diverse, but each faces some degree of challenge.

“By creating more supportive environments, promoting health investment and innovation, and building strong and resilient health systems, we can change the trajectory of obesity in the Region.

The report reveals that 59% of adults in Europe are overweight or suffer from obesity. Among children, 29% of boys and 27% of girls are considered obese.

The problem has been exacerbated during the pandemic, according to a study cited by the WHO, leading to a sharp increase in overweight and obesity rates.

The WHO estimates that overweight and obesity are responsible for more than 13% of deaths – 1.2 million – in the region each year. They are also believed to be the primary behavioral factors causing disability, causing 7% of cases.

Obesity has been linked to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. Since obesity is linked to 13 cancers, the WHO considers it “directly responsible” for at least 200,000 new cases of cancer each year.

For countries that fund national healthcare, obesity is also costly, directly consuming up to 8% of overall healthcare costs in EU countries in 2014. The WHO also cites research that found that it costs 30% more to treat obese people than others.

The WHO offers a comprehensive approach to creating a culture that encourages healthy eating and has announced a series of policies:

  • “[T]implementation of fiscal interventions (such as taxation of sugary drinks or subsidies for healthy foods)
  • Restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children
  • Improving access to obesity and overweight services in primary health care, within the framework of universal health coverage
  • Efforts to improve diet and physical activity across the lifespan, including preconception and pregnancy care, breastfeeding promotion, school-based interventions, and interventions to create environments that improve accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.

“The @WHO Europe Obesity report underlines that high-level political commitment is crucial to support national policies on obesity, which will help support the resilience of health systems.”

– The European Association for the Study of ObesityGoing through Twitter

The WHO stresses the importance for nations to muster the political will to solve the obesity epidemic, stating:

“Any national policy aimed at solving the problems of overweight and obesity must be based on high-level political commitment. They must also be comprehensive, reaching individuals throughout their lives and targeting inequalities”.

“Obesity prevention efforts must consider the broader determinants of disease, and policy options must move away from approaches that focus on individuals and address the structural drivers of obesity.”

Mary I. Bruner