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Obesity causes cancer and is major determinant of disability and death, warns new WHO report

Obesity knows no borders

Almost two thirds of adults and 1 in 3 children in the WHO European Region are living with overweight or obesity, and these rates are still growing. The new WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 warns of the serious health risks associated with rising levels of obesity. Obesity is among the top determinants of death and disability in the Region, the condition is a cause of 13 different types of cancer, and it needs to be treated and managed by multidisciplinary teams.

COVID-19 and the obesity problem

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the obesity problem even more pressing. Patients with obesity are more likely to experience complications and death from the virus, and many of these patients have experienced disruptions in accessing obesity management services.

Preliminary data also suggest that during the current pandemic, people have had higher exposure to obesity risk factors, including an increase in sedentary lifestyles and consumption of unhealthy foods.

Creating healthy environments: WHO policy recommendations

“Obesity is influenced by the environment, so it is important to look at this problem from the perspective of every stage of life. For example, the life of children and adolescents is impacted by digital environments, including marketing of unhealthy food and drinks,” said Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Acting Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which produced the WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022.

“We have learned over time that a single policy will not work. To succeed as a country or Region, we need a comprehensive package of interventions. No single country has been able to introduce all these policies at the same time. It is important to priorities 2 or 3 policies to implement now and have a feasible plan to introduce the rest of the interventions,” added Dr Wickramasinghe. “Restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages and improving health system response for obesity management are currently among the most actively discussed policy areas in the WHO European Region.”

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