Back in 2014, The Lancet reported that despite raised awareness of global obesity, the numbers from 188 countries indicated that “no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years,” and that urgent action and leadership would be needed.
A Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity was established to develop a set of recommendations. In 2016, the Commission’s final report noted that progress had been “slow and inconsistent” and called for the implementation of several recommendations, involving healthy foods, physical activity, preconception and pregnancy care, and weight management. It also said,
Driven by globalization and urbanization, exposure to unhealthy (obesogneic) environments is increasing in high-, middle- and low-income countries and across all socioeconomic groups. The marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages was identified as a major factor in the increase in numbers of children being overweight and obese, particularly in the developing world.
Earlier this week Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe, summed up the current situation. He first noted that for at least a century, Europe has “grappled with multiple, momentous crises.” One feature of what some call the “permacrisis” is that its pace has been accelerating. Climate change brings catastrophic weather events, wildfires, unbearable heat, drought, desperate water shortages, crop failure, and hunger. Then, there are the wars, the most noticeable in recent months being the one in Ukraine.
Infectious diseases rampage through populations. Much as we might wish to forget about COVID-19, it has not forgotten us, and in fact, seems likely to become a permanent feature of the world health-scape. Then, there are monkeypox and polio. One effect of the COVID pandemic years has been the closure of, in some countries, up to 50% of HIV testing services.
Noncommunicable diseases are also destroying the health and ending the lives of millions of people, and among those morbidities Dr. Kluge names “cancer, heart disease, alcohol- and tobacco-related disease, and the epidemic of obesity.” He goes on to say,
One out of every four children in primary school in our region is living with overweight or obesity.
A ray of hope is that WHO is setting up a Pan-European Summit of First Ladies and First Gentlemen to tackle childhood obesity, whose first session will meet next year in Croatia. Dr. Kluge says of the whole permacrisis situation that it demands a dual-track response, as spelled out below:
On one hand, we must urgently prepare for health emergencies like pandemics, climate-related crises and conflicts. On the other hand, we must urgently strengthen our current health systems and essential services to address the permacrisis of noncommunicable diseases and HIV. One cannot be sacrificed for the other. It requires investment in the health workforce and mental health.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980–2013,” TheLancet.com, 05/28/14
Source: “Commission presents its final report, calling for high-level action to address major health challenge,” WHO.int, 01/26/16
Source: “Statement: The European Region is in a ‘permacrisis’ that stretches well beyond the pandemic, climate change and war,” WHO.int. 09/17/22
Image by Sébastien Bertrand/CC BY 2.0