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WHO: Obesity and overweight

5 March, 2020

Yesterday 4 March was World Obesity Day. Read extracts below from the WHO website. Full text here:




On the occasion of world obesity day WHO encourages practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, undertake proper treatment, and reverse the obesity crisis...

WHO is responding to the global obesity crisis on many fronts, including monitoring global trends and prevalence, the development of a broad range of guidance addressing the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity, and providing implementation support and guidance such as the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.


The WHO website also has published an update of its Fact Sheet on obesity, which you can find here


Key facts

- Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

- In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

- 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.

- Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

- 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2018.

- Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

- Obesity is preventable...

How can overweight and obesity be reduced?

Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, by making the choice of healthier foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (the choice that is the most accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing overweight and obesity.


Comment (Neil PW): I would add that it is very important to meet people's information needs about obesity, as shown by this 2012 paper Obesity and its health impact in Africa: a systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3721807/ . There are many key aspects including (lack of) knowledge about health risks of obesity; stigma due to poor understanding of contributing factors; misconceptions such as ‘fat is beautiful or prosperous’; and predatory advertising by fast food companies.

Meanwhile, the HIFA Steering Group met yesterday at the BMJ offices for our biannual meeting, with nine in person plus nine online around the world. Thanks to our host Tracy Eastman for providing a healthy lunch of sandwiches and fruit - with no crisps and no biscuits! :-)

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org