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Saturday, April 13, 2024

New Research Shows Global Obesity Rates Surpass One Billion People

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More than one billion people worldwide are now living with obesity, with rates among children increasing fourfold, a new report published by The Lancet has revealed.

According to the study, obesity among adults globally has more than doubled since 1990 and has quadrupled among children and adolescents between five to 19 years of age.

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The Lancet analysis estimates that nearly 880 million adults and 159 million children lived with obesity in 2022.

While the study admitted a decrease in the rates of undernutrition, it noted that it is still a public health challenge in many places, particularly in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The new global study, conducted by more than 1,500 researchers from the Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration and the World Health Organisation, analysed the height and weight measurements of over 220 million people from more than 190 countries.

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WHO’s intervention

According to a news release on the research by WHO on Friday, countries with the highest combined rates of underweight and obesity in 2022 were island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean and those in the Middle East and North Africa.

WHO explained that undernutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under five and obesity can cause noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

“Obesity is a complex chronic disease. The causes are well understood, as are the interventions needed to contain the crisis, which are backed by strong evidence. However, they are not implemented,” WHO noted.

“At the World Health Assembly in 2022 Member States adopted the WHO Acceleration plan to stop obesity, which supports country-level action through 2030.”

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WHO said 31 countries are now leading the way to curb the obesity epidemic by implementing the plan.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, in his comment, emphasised the significance of addressing and controlling obesity from childhood to adulthood through healthy eating, exercise, and proper medical attention.

Mr Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of governments, communities, and private sectors working together to achieve global obesity reduction goals by implementing evidence-based policies and taking responsibility for the health consequences of their products.

He added that combating undernutrition necessitates collaboration across various sectors including agriculture, social protection, and healthcare.

Challenges, way forward

In her remarks, the Director of WHO’s Nutrition and Food Safety Department and one of the co-authors of the study, Francesco Branca, highlighted some of the challenges encountered in the implementation of policies to harness the situation.

“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,” Mrs Branca was quoted as saying.

“Countries should also ensure that health systems integrate the prevention and management of obesity into the basic package of services.”

Some key interventions and approaches needed to combat obesity, according to the study include: employing strategies to promote healthy habits from the beginning, such as advocating, safeguarding, and offering breastfeeding support, and regulations targeting the detrimental marketing of food and drinks to children.

READ ALSO: Gates Foundation says 0.5% of world billionaires’ wealth could prevent 7 million deaths

Others also include: school food and nutrition guidelines, encompassing efforts to regulate the availability of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt products near schools; fiscal and pricing measures to encourage nutritious eating habits and policies on nutrition labelling.

The study also suggested the incorporation of obesity prevention and treatment services into primary healthcare.

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