The World Obesity Federation has recently published its Atlas 2023, highlighting the alarming prediction that more than half of all people on Earth will be overweight or obese within 12 years if prevention, treatment, and support do not improve.
This report sheds light on the growing public health crisis that needs urgent attention from policymakers, healthcare providers, and individuals.
Global Economic Impact of Overweight and Obesity
The World Obesity Atlas 2023 predicts that the global economic impact of overweight and obesity will surpass $4 trillion annually by 2035 if prevention and treatment measures do not improve.
This is equivalent to almost 3% of the global GDP, which is comparable to the impact of COVID-19 in 2020. This projection emphasizes the urgent need for global action to prevent and manage overweight and obesity.
Childhood Obesity on the Rise
According to the Atlas report, childhood obesity is predicted to more than double by 2035, with rates increasing more rapidly among children than adults. The projected number of boys with obesity is expected to double to 208 million (a 100% increase), while the number of girls with obesity is predicted to more than double to 175 million (a 125% increase).
This trend is especially worrying as childhood obesity is a significant risk factor for various chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and it can also have social and psychological consequences.
Global Disparities in Obesity Prevalence
The Atlas report highlights that lower-income countries are facing rapid increases in obesity prevalence. Of the ten countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity (for both adults and children), nine are from low or lower-middle-income countries. All of these countries are from either Asia or Africa.
This trend suggests that there is a need for tailored interventions and support for those living in areas with fewer resources.
The Call for Comprehensive National Action Plans
The World Obesity Federation is calling for comprehensive national action plans to help countries address overweight and obesity. The Federation encourages countries to act on the new World Health Organization (WHO) Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Obesity.
These recommendations include measures such as implementing healthy food policies, promoting physical activity, and improving access to healthcare services.
Acknowledging Obesity as a Chronic Disease
These insights are not intended to be used as a way to blame individuals living with obesity for their own condition. Obesity must be recognized as a chronic, relapsing disease.
People with obesity require long-term and comprehensive support, including lifestyle interventions and medical management, to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
What Can We Do to Address the Growing Obesity Crisis?
As the obesity epidemic continues to worsen, it’s crucial that we take proactive measures to address the issue—as individuals, and as a community.
- Prioritize healthy eating habits: One of the most effective ways to prevent obesity is to prioritize healthy eating habits. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources into your diet, and limit your intake of sugary and processed foods. Consider preparing meals at home and bringing healthy snacks to work or school.
- Increase physical activity: Regular exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and can help individuals maintain a healthy weight. Communities can create more opportunities for physical activity by building safe bike lanes and sidewalks, and by providing access to public parks and recreation facilities.
- Address mental health concerns: Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress can contribute to obesity. Consider seeing a therapist or counselor to work on stress management, coping strategies, and improving your overall mental health. Prioritizing your mental health can also help you make positive changes in your eating and exercise habits, which can ultimately help with weight management.
- Address social issues: Poverty, food insecurity, and other social determinants can contribute to obesity. If you’re facing these challenges, seek out resources and support in your community. And if you are in a position to help others, consider volunteering or donating to organizations that provide services to those in need.
- Advocate for policy change: Support policies that prioritize obesity prevention and treatment, such as sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, mandatory menu labeling, and zoning laws that promote healthy food retail options.
- Seek healthcare support: Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor and discuss your weight concerns. Ask your doctor for counseling on healthy lifestyle choices, and consider working with a dietician or physical therapist to develop a personalized plan.
By taking these steps, we can help prevent and reduce the prevalence of obesity globally. It will take a collective effort from policymakers, healthcare providers, and communities to tackle this complex issue, but it’s a critical step toward creating a healthier world.