The COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder to the world that nothing is more important than our health. But now that things are going back to normal, it looks like a new health crisis is on the horizon, and it concerns something that many are familiar with: obesity. A recently published study predicts that more than half of people globally will be overweight or obese soon — unless things change.
The alarming numbers
The World Obesity Federation (WOF), a membership organization that studies the study and management of obesity, has recently published the World Obesity Atlas 2023, which predicts that 51% of the global population, or more than 4 billion people, will be living with obesity or overweight by 2035.
“This year’s Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future. It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents,” says Professor Louise Baur, WOF President.
The study has also revealed that the global economic impact of overweight and obesity may reach a glaring $4.32 trillion annually by 2035 if prevention measures don’t improve. That’s nearly 3% of the global GDP!
“Governments and policymakers around the world need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social, and economic costs on to the younger generation.”
The dangers of obesity
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There are numerous health risks and complications surrounding obesity. People suffering from this complex disease are likely to face life-threatening illnesses such as coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Mental conditions like clinical depression and anxiety are also among the most common risk factors of obesity.
It doesn’t just impact the individual
Despite the serious risks of obesity, it’s still easy for some to consider it a personal health issue rather than a global concern. According to WOF’s study, obesity can significantly impact the global economy. The report sees high BMIs as possible factors to affect a person’s ability to go to work, including reduced productivity, premature retirement, and mortality.
Low-income countries are more likely to see more obesity
Though obesity has been projected to increase in all countries across the board, low-income countries are more likely to see a significant increase in obesity among children and adults from 2020 to 2035.
How many Filipinos are obese?
The latest survey of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute estimates there are now 27 million Filipinos that are overweight and obese.
Which countries are most equipped to combat obesity?
Switzerland topped the global preparedness category to tackle and combat high levels of obesity, alongside Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Maldives, and Belgium in the top 10. Meanwhile, some Asian nations like China, Japan, and South Korea, to name a few, have received good placements as well.
Which countries are most vulnerable to obesity?
But most countries in the Southeast Asian Region, like the Philippines, were rated poor and placed 119th in the global preparedness category out of 183 nations. The country was predicted to witness a 6.9% annual increase in child obesity from 2020 to 2035. As for the adults, a surging growth also looms at 4.6%.
An urgent need for comprehensive actions plans
Obesity is a life-threatening and complex health condition that demands well-devised strategies and plans. WOF encourages nations to accelerate the development of inclusive health systems to prevent the comorbidities of obesity. National governments must focus on nationwide health monitoring for obesity and address weight stigma or bias surrounding it.
“If we do not act now, we are on course to see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade. The greatest increases will be seen in low and lower-middle-income countries, where scarce resources and lack of preparedness will create a perfect storm that will negatively impact people living with obesity the most,” WOF Director of Science Rachel Jackson-Leach, says.
WOF also encourages countries to train and equip their health professionals to manage obesity. A person-oriented approach should be observed, including prompt treatments for obesity, proper surveillance, data collection, and analysis. Although there’s still so much that needs to be done, it’s not yet too late to prevent the looming global health crisis.
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