On 3 May 2022, WHO Europe launched its 2022 Obesity Report. Obesity is one of the key risk factors for many noncommunicable diseases, yet according to the new report nearly 60% of adults are currently overweight or obese, as well as almost one in three children. Recent figures suggest that excess weight and obesity are responsible for almost 1.2 million deaths each year in the WHO European region and are the leading cause of preventable cancers. The report aims to address the current obesity challenge by raising awareness of the behaviour changes necessary, including being more physically active.
In his opening remarks, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Europe Director, pointed out that obesity is the highest contributor to disabilities and was a major risk factor for COVID. Despite the growing and concerning figures, no member state is currently on track to halt the rise of obesity by 2025. It is therefore of the utmost importance to rethink our approach towards building a healthier future with sustainable health systems. Dr Nina Berdzuli, Director of the Division of Country Health Programmes at WHO Europe, further emphasized the necessity of encouraging healthy lifestyles and increasing physical activity levels.
Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, explained that, in the current state, the Sustainable Development Goals 2 (achieve Zero Hunger and improve nutrition) and 3 (ensuring healthy lifestyles and promoting wellbeing) will not be achieved. He underlined that the WHO has recommended several cost-effective actions, also presented in the report, that are yet to be implemented. Donata Meroni, Head of Unit on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the European Commission, recalled the ongoing Commission initiatives such as HealthyLifestyle4All and Healthier Together. MEPs Pernille Weiss and Nicolas Casares then called for a shared approach at EU level, which also included tackling physical inactivity levels.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Head of the WHO Europe Office for the Prevention and Control of NCDs, reiterated that obesity is a leading cause of 13 cancers, among other noncommunicable diseases. This report therefore calls for more action in order to halt the rise of obesity and enable individuals to live a healthier life.