Today, more than one in two adults and nearly one in six children are overweight or obese in the OECD area. The obesity epidemic has spread further in the past five years, although at a slower pace than before. Despite this, new projections show a continuing increase of obesity in all studied countries. Social disparities in obesity persist and have increased in some countries. A nearly tenfold variation in obesity and overweight rates can be seen across OECD countries.
In the last few years, new policy strategies devised to fight obesity have emerged. The OECD have produced an Obesity Update which focuses on a selection of those, specifically at communication policies aimed to tackle obesity, in particular by improving nutrient information displayed on food labels, using social and new media to sensitise the population, or by regulating the marketing of food products. Better communication helps empower people to make healthier choices. However, comprehensive policy packages, including not only communication but also broader regulatory and fiscal policies, are needed to tackle obesity effectively.
To read the full update on the OECD website: Obesity Update
The latest data (2015–2017) from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) show that southern European countries have the highest rate of child obesity. In Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, San Marino and Spain, approximately 1 in 5 boys (ranging from 18% to 21%) are obese. Denmark, France, Ireland, Latvia and Norway are among the countries with the lowest rates, ranging from 5% to 9% in either sex.
In addition to weight and height measurements, many countries also submitted nutritional data, such as eating habits, as part of the programme. Encouragingly, in several countries three quarters or more of boys and girls are eating fruit either every day or most days (4–6) of the week. These include Albania, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, the Russian Federation (Moscow), San Marino and Turkmenistan (data from France and other countries in Scandinavia was not available here). Children in these countries also had lower consumption of foods like pizza, French fries, fried potatoes, hamburgers, sausages or meat pies, consuming them 1–3 days per week or never. Other data collected by the project include that on parent’s opinion of the child’s weight status, and also physical activity habits, although again not all of the 34 countries submitted data here
To read more about this on the WHO Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Nutrition – Latest data shows southern European countries have highest rate of childhood obesity
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
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
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
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 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