Global policy on obesity: An international commitment to shrinking waistlines

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Global policy on obesity: An international commitment to shrinking waistlines

Global policy on obesity: An international commitment to shrinking waistlines

Subheading text
As obesity rates continue to rise, governments and non-governmental organizations are collaborating to minimize the trend’s economic and health costs.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • November 26, 2021

    In most cases, obesity is caused by excess discrepancies between the amount of energy (food) people consume and the amount of energy they expend, leading to significant health problems such as cardiovascular diseases. However, obesity—once viewed as an individual failing or responsibility—is increasingly being viewed as a public health challenge to address collectively.

    Global policy on obesity context

    Obesity is rising globally, leading to significant economic and health implications. Over 70 percent of adults in low- and middle-income nations are overweight or obese, according to 2016 estimates from the World Bank Group. Moreover, lower-middle-income countries bear a twin burden of malnutrition and obesity. 

    As per capita income rises, the burden of obesity transfers to the rural regions of low- and middle-income countries. Rural areas account for about 55 percent of the global increase in obesity, with South East Asia, Latin America, Central Asia, and North Africa accounting for approximately 80 or 90 percent of the recent switch.

    Furthermore, inhabitants in many low- and middle-income nations are more vulnerable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) when their BMI is more than 25 (classified as overweight) for various genetic and epigenetic factors. Therefore, obesity in children is very harmful, putting them at a higher risk of developing debilitating NCDs early in life and living with them for a more extended period, robbing them of health and socio-economic capabilities. 

    Recent scientific papers published in The Lancet show that in addition to treating obesity, altering diets and food systems is also critical in addressing the rising problems of climate change and the persistent problem of child malnutrition. The World Bank and other development partners are uniquely positioned to help clients in low-, middle-, and high-income nations reduce obesity by running awareness campaigns about the significance of healthy food systems. 

    Disruptive impact

    Obesity can lead to decreased productivity, higher disabilities, increased health-care expenses, early retirement, and a shorter period of disability-free healthy lifestyles across an individual’s life span. These are all crucial factors that will likely affect human capital outputs in numerous countries. Likewise, as the number of healthy individuals in the workforce decreases, organizations will likely suffer economically from issues like missed workdays due to sick leave and early retirements. If left unaddressed, the worldwide obesity pandemic will likely impair the development of human capital, the building of national wealth, and the aim of eliminating poverty and increasing shared prosperity.

    Implications of global policy on obesity

    Implications of global policy on obesity may include:

    • The development of restrictive laws that seek to enhance the dietary quality of foods sold to the public (especially to minors) and as well as economic incentives aimed at promoting physical activity. 
    • More aggressive public education campaigns promoting the benefits of weight loss.
    • Increased public and private funding to develop innovative weight loss solutions, such as new medications, exercise tools, personalized diets, surgeries, and engineered foods. 

    Questions to comment on

    • Do you believe it is against basic human rights to impose laws and regulations to control people’s diets and physical activities?
    • What role can non-governmental organizations play in helping to promote healthier lifestyles? 

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight:

    World Health Organization Obesity and overweight