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One in eight people are now living with obesity

A report authored by medical journal Lancet has revealed that over 1 billion people in the world are now living with obesity.

The study conducted in 2022, indicate that obesity among adults has more than doubled since 1990, and has quadrupled among children and adolescents (5 to 19 years of age).

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The data also show that 43% of adults were overweight in 2022 with countries recording the highest combined rates of underweight and obesity in 2022 being island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean and those in the Middle East and North Africa.

The study also shows that even though the rates of under nutrition have dropped, it is still a public health challenge in many places, particularly in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes under nutrition (wasting, stunting, and underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight and obesity. Under nutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under 5 and obesity can cause non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

“This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Getting back on track to meet the global targets for curbing obesity will take the work of governments and communities, supported by evidence-based policies from WHO and national public health agencies. Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products”. Added Tedros.

Obesity is a complex chronic disease with WHO member states adopting the WHO Acceleration plan to stop obesity, which supports country-level action through 2030 at the World Health Assembly in 2022.

“There are significant challenges in implementing policies aimed at ensuring affordable access to healthy diets for all and creating environments that promote physical activity and overall healthy lifestyles for everyone,” stated Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Nutrition and Food Safety Department and one of the co-authors of the study.

To date, 31 governments are now leading the way to curb the obesity epidemic by implementing the plan whose core interventions include; actions to support healthy practices from day 1, including breastfeeding promotion, protection and support, regulations on the harmful marketing of food and beverages to children, school food and nutrition policies, including initiatives to regulate the sales of products high in fats, sugars and salt in proximity of schools.

Others are; fiscal and pricing policies to promote healthy diets, nutrition labeling policies, public education and awareness campaigns for healthy diets and exercise, standards for physical activity in schools and integration of obesity prevention and management services into primary health care.

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