Today is World Obesity Day, an event held annually to bring increased awareness to the topic of obesity. According to OPEN, the Obesity Policy Engagement Network, in 2014 224 million adults in Europe were affected by being overweight, and around 80 million of those had obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for many non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
EASO, the European Association for the Study of Obesity, defines obesity and overweight as ‘abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health’. Obesity is now widely considered to be a disease, based on the complex interaction between physical, social, genetic, and environmental factors that may cause the condition. While obesity alone is unlikely to cause Type 2 diabetes, 44% of people living with Type 2 are also overweight or obese and for that reason the condition is considered a ‘gateway’ to diabetes. This represents a major challenge for health systems in Europe and society at large.
On World Obesity Day 2021, we are encouraging policymakers to move away from the culture of shame and stigma that surrounds obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Shifting the focus from blaming the individual to creating health-enabling environments in Europe will not only benefit those currently living with Type 2 and those at risk of developing it, but also the general public. Simple changes such as providing more open spaces, walking paths and areas for people to exercise, improving the quality of food produced and sold in Europe, and introducing an efficient front-of-pack labelling system will help address the social determinants of health, which, in turn, will allow people to tackle modifiable risk factors of conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. This will also help reduce the economic costs of obesity and conditions related to it – According to the European Commission, around 7% of national health budgets in the EU each year are spent on diseases that can be linked to obesity.
To read more about World Obesity Day, check out the EASO website here.