Obesity accounts for four million deaths worldwide – WB report

06 Feb 2020, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria

Summary

The factors causing the obesity epidemic include ultra-processed and sugary foods, reduced physical activity and higher incomes, which is often associated with higher consumption of unhealthy foods.

An obese individual eating sugary food

A new World Bank report launched today says obesity is a growing concern for all countries regardless of income level. The report, Obesity: Health and Economic Consequences of an impending global challenge, states that obesity-related diseases are now among the top-three killers in every region of the world except Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

According to the report, the health impacts of obesity include stroke, kidney disease, gestational diabetes, heart attack, liver disease, infection, depression, among other diseases. Since 1975, data has shown that obesity has nearly tripled and now accounts for four million deaths worldwide every year.

The report says over 70 per cent of the world's two billion overweight and obese people live in low- or middle-income countries. Evidence now shows the condition is no longer just a problem exclusive to high-income countries.

It is projected that in the next 15 years, the costs of obesity will total more than US$7 trillion in developing countries. Obesity-related diseases have a major impact on national economies and on human capital by reducing productivity and life expectancy and increasing disability and health care costs.

The factors causing the obesity epidemic include ultra-processed and sugary foods, reduced physical activity and higher incomes, which is often associated with higher consumption of unhealthy foods.

“As countries grow economically and per capita income rise, the devastating impacts and burden of obesity will continue to shift toward the poor,” said Dr. Meera Shekar, Global Lead for Nutrition at the World Bank and co-author of the report, along with Dr. Barry Popkin from the University of North Carolina.

The report also says as per capita income increases, the burden of obesity shifts to the poor and to rural areas in many low- and middle- income countries, which are now suffering from what is referred to as the “double-burden of malnutrition” – high stunting and increasing obesity rates.

To avoid the rise of obesity in future generations, the World Bank report says governments and development partners must adopt a comprehensive approach. Effective primary health systems will be crucial together with a strong focus on preventative measures such as mandating the labeling of processed foods; increasing consumer education; supporting strong fiscal policies, such as taxation of unhealthy foods.

The report also highlights the importance of investing in early childhood nutrition programmes; and enhancing urban design, such as playgrounds in schools and walking and bicycle paths.


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