The economic costs of unhealthy diets and low physical activity

Unhealthy diets and low physical activity contribute to many chronic diseases and disability; they are responsible for some 2 in 5 deaths worldwide and for about 30% of the global disease burden. Yet surprisingly little is known about the economic costs that these risk factors cause, both for health care and society more widely.

This study pulls together the evidence about the economic burden that can be linked to unhealthy diets and low physical activity.

The study’s findings are a step towards a better understanding of the economic burden that can be associated with two key risk factors for ill health and they will help policymakers in setting priorities and to more effectively promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

To download the report Assessing the costs of unhealthy diet and low physical activity from the euro.who.int websit

TV and internet marketing to children

The WHO have produced a protocol “Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children via television and the Internet” to help countries in the European Region gather data in a way that will support policy changes.
Most data on the prevalence of food and beverage marketing come from high-income, English-speaking countries,
specifically Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. They show that the marketing of HFSS foods (high in saturated fats, salt and/or sugar) to children is highly prevalent, actively uses persuasive techniques likely to appeal to children and is present across multiple media, including broadcast television and social media online.
Continued monitoring is needed in these countries, to ensure that up-to-date evidence is available to inform and strengthen policy and that policies are adequately evaluated.
More data are urgently needed from other countries, however, to support the domestic policy-making process and to build a more representative global picture of food-marketing activity.
Studies conducted in accordance with this protocol will interest policy-makers, academic researchers, public health
practitioners and advocacy groups in the WHO European Region and worldwide.
To download the protocol on Monitoring food and beverage marketing to children from the euro.who.int website

Obesity and the public purse

This is the first study to estimate the annual savings that overweight and obese people bring UK taxpayers by dying prematurely (in 2016 prices). Ignoring these savings leads to substantial overestimation of the true burden of elevated body mass index (BMI) to the taxpayer. The study’s estimates of the present value of pension, healthcare and other benefit payments avoided through early, BMI-caused deaths (net of foregone tax payments) is £3.6 billion per annum.

This report, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, analyses the cost of obesity to public services and estimates that the net cost is less than £2.5 billion a year or 0.3 per cent of government spending. The report argues that the economic burden of obesity has been exaggerated and that the health care costs of an ageing population should be the focus for public service efficiency savings.

To read the full report on the true costs of obesity on the dodsmonitoring.com website

EU support for public health priorities

In Europe, six of the seven biggest risk factors for premature death are directly linked to how we eat, drink and move. Moreover, rising levels of obesity across Europe is a great concern and can contribute to or aggravate many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

More than 20 pan-European actions have been co-financed under the 2nd and 3rd EU Health Programmes, to exchange best practices, develop recommendations and improve standardized methods of data collection about nutrition and physical activity promotion.

At the end of 2016 a three day meeting was organised to share the results from more than 30 successful projects in the areas of nutrition and physical activity that can be carried out by policy makers, schools and the community.

To download the presentations on nutrition and physical activity on the ec.europa.eu website

Longer life, but not necessarily healthier life

Life expectancy now exceeds 80 years in most EU countries according to the new report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016“, but these are not always healthy life years. Around 50 million people in the EU suffer from several chronic diseases, and more than half a million people of working age die from them every year, representing an annual cost of some €115 billion for EU economies. Three fundamental changes are needed if this is going to change:

  • more effective health systems: 550,000 people of working age die every year from potentially avoidable diseases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smoking. Many lives could be saved firstly, by focusing more resources on health promotion and disease prevention strategies and secondly, by improving the quality of acute and chronic care.
  • more accessible health systems: 27% of patients go to A & E due to the lack of availability of primary care; an average of 15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients with large disparities between countries; and poor Europeans are on average 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare for financial reasons than more affluent ones. Member States’ policies should focus on reducing financial barriers to healthcare, strengthening access to primary care, and reducing excessive waiting times.
  • more resilient health systems: Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is projected to increase to nearly 30% by 2060. Population ageing, combined with increasing rates of chronic diseases and budgetary constraints, will require changes in how we deliver healthcare, including developing eHealth, reducing hospital stays by organising services better in primary and community care, and spending more wisely on pharmaceuticals, including by making full use of opportunities for generic substitutions.

More information about Improving Health Systems on the europa.eu website

Tackling Childhood Obesity

Tackling Childhood Obesity in Europe through Awareness and Prevention 

Thursday 12th October 2017 at the Thon Hotel, Brussels

Around one-third of 11-years-olds in Europe are overweight or obese according to the WHO. More than 60% of overweight children will stay overweight into adulthood, imposing a major burden on public spending. Indeed, around 7% of the national health budgets across the EU are spent each year on diseases linked to obesity.

This symposium will enable attendees to examine the factors underpinning childhood obesity and discuss the current strategies for prevention and treatment. The symposium will further offer delegates a platform to share ideas and best practice from across Europe.

For more information and to register for Tackling Childhood Obesity on the publicpolicyexchange.co.uk website

Obesity in the EU

The latest European Health Interview Survey shows that almost 1 adult in 6 in the EU is considered obese and the share of obesity increases with age and decreases with education level.
While 46.1% of those aged 18 or over living in the EU had a normal weight in 2014, slightly more than half of the adults (51.6%) were considered as over-weight (35.7% pre-obese and 15.9% obese) and a further 2.3% as under-weight. In other words, nearly 1 in every 6 persons aged 18 or over in the EU was obese in 2014.
Obesity is a serious public health problem that can be statistically measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI) of adults, with obesity defined as a BMI of 30 or over. The share of obese adults clearly varies between age groups and according to education level. With the exception of those aged 75 or over, the older the age group, the higher the share of obese persons: the obesity share in the EU stood at 22.1% for people aged 65 to 74, while it was below 6% (5.7%) for those aged 18 to 24. The pattern is also clear for education level: the proportion of obese persons in the
EU falls as the educational level rises. Indeed, while the percentage of obese persons among those with low education level reached almost 20% (19.9%), it decreased to 16.0% for those with a medium education level and to less than 12% (11.5%) for the population with a high education level.
More statistics on obesity in the EU can be downloaded from the ec.europa.eu website.

A Healthy Weight for Ireland

In the past two decades levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland have doubled with only 40% of the population having a healthy weight. This represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today and according to the WHO these levels are forecast to increase, so Ireland may top the European “League Tables” in this regard. The fact that the majority of the population is overweight or obese means that Ireland faces a dramatic increase in chronic diseases which, in the worst case scenario, will reverse the improvement in life expectancy seen in the last few decades.
Ireland has now produced ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’ to help people achieve better health and in particular to reduce the levels of overweight and obesity. It also acknowledges that the solutions are multiple andthat every sector has a role to play.
The full Obesity and Action Plan can be downloaded from the health.gov.ie website

Adding to Social capital and individual Potential in ex-Industrial REgions (ASPIRE)

This proposed project will be applying for funding under the Interreg VA France (Channel) England programme which focuses on issues that affect the coastal areas of southern England and northern France. In both areas there are places currently deeply affected by the closure of a single dominant employer such as mining, ship-building and heavy industrial production. The local economy has found it hard to replace the jobs lost and the resulting deprivation shows in the levels of unemployment and general ill-health (mental and physical).

This project will initiate and encourage small-scale community involvement in growing, cooking and selling local produce, creating a healthier community and enabling small businesses to evolve and regenerate the local economy.

The Health and Europe Centre are the lead partners in this project and although it is in its very earliest stages, we already have a number of organisations interested in becoming partners, including Medway CIC, KCC, Plymouth Council, Kent CHFT and the Hadlow Group through the Betteshanger Community Park.

Physical activity strategy 2016–2025

The WHO Regional Office for Europe has prepared a physical activity strategy to support the voluntary global targets set out in the WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013–2020.

The strategy focuses on physical activity as a leading factor in health and well-being in the European Region, with particular attention being paid to the burden of noncommunicable diseases associated with insufficient activity levels and sedentary behaviour. It aims to cover all forms of physical activity throughout an ordinary person’s life.

For more information and to download the physical activity strategy on the euro.who.int website.