More than 1 billion people – 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children-- are overweight or obese worldwide, and still increasing, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
By 2025, approximately 167 million people – adults and children – will become less healthy because they are overweight or obese, it also estimates.
On World Obesity Day 2022 on Friday, the WHO is urging countries to do more to reverse this predictable and preventable health crisis, said a press release.
At the same time, countries need to work together to create a better food environment so that everyone can access and afford a healthy diet.
Cities and towns need to make space for safe walking, cycling, and recreation, and schools need to help households teach children healthy habits from early on.
Obesity is a disease impacting most body systems. It affects the heart, liver, kidneys, joints, and reproductive system. It leads to a range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, various forms of cancer, as well as mental health issues. People with obesity are also three times more likely to be hospitalised for Covid-19.
The key to preventing obesity is to act early, ideally even before a baby is conceived. Good nutrition in pregnancy, followed by exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months and continued breastfeeding until two years and beyond, is best for all infants and young children.
Effective steps include restricting marketing to children, food and drinks high in fats, sugar and salt, taxing sugary drinks, and providing better access to affordable, healthy food.
The WHO is responding to the global obesity crisis on many fronts-- including monitoring global trends and prevalence, the development of a broad range of guidance addressing obesity, its prevention and treatment, providing implementation support, and guidance for countries.
Following a request from member states, the WHO secretariat is developing an accelerated action plan to stop obesity, tackle the epidemic in high burden countries, and catalyse global action.
The plan will be discussed at the 76th World Health Assembly to be held in May 2022.