WHO releases new report on weight and obesity rates in Europe

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report that overweight and obesity rates have increased across the European region and are still escalating.

The WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022, published on May 3, was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Maastricht, Netherlands.

The report revealed that in the European Region, 59 percent of adults and almost one in three children (29 percent of boys and 27 percent of girls) are overweight or living with obesity. Obesity for adults in the European Region is higher than in any other WHO region except for the Americas, according to the report. Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in the European Region, with recent estimates suggesting they cause more than 1.2 million deaths annually, corresponding to more than 13 percent of total mortality in the area.

The 220-page report, aimed at policy-makers and stakeholders, covers a wide range of topics pertaining to obesity including:

  • obesity across the life course
  • obesogenic environments
  • obesogenic digital food environments
  • public awareness
  • obesity and COVID-19
  • management of obesity

The report also includes interventions and policy options that member states can consider in tackling obesity – with emphasis on “building back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those interventions target diet, physical activity, management, and monitoring from preconception and prenatal care,  to infancy, childhood, and adolescence, through adulthood and lastly to the senior years.

According to the report, policy interventions that target environmental and commercial determinants of poor diet at the entire population level are likely to be most effective at reversing the obesity epidemic, addressing dietary inequalities, and achieving environmentally sustainable food systems.

In addition, the WHO report highlighted the following specific policies that show promise in reducing levels of obesity and overweight:

  • the implementation of fiscal interventions (such as tax on sugar-sweetened beverages or subsidies for healthy foods);
  • restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children;
  • improvement of access to obesity and overweight management services in primary healthcare, as part of universal health coverage;
  • efforts to improve diet and physical activity across the life course, including preconception and pregnancy care, promotion of breastfeeding, school-based interventions, and interventions to create environments that improve the accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.