Published in December/January Issue             

A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlights the urgent need to develop effective strategies that better address the burden of obesity on economies and healthcare systems across Europe. The report, which was commissioned by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Ethicon, examines government policies for dealing with the obesity and includes perspectives from a 15 obesity experts.

The report says policymakers “appear divided over how to confront the continent’s weight issue” and solving the problem requires “creating an environment that prevents obesity rather than encourages an unhealthy lifestyle.” However, it argues that prevention programs alone are not enough, particularly for those who are already severely overweight and obese. The report stresses the importance of including more aggressive treatment measures for these individuals who may not benefit from prevention efforts.

“I do not understand why people who have developed a disease due to a bad lifestyle shouldn’t be eligible for treatment. There is some sort of social cultural stigma that makes obesity different from any other disease we know,” Professor Francesco Rubino, chair of metabolic and bariatric surgery, King’s College London, commented in a press release.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. Its prevalence has tripled in many countries of the WHO European Region since the 1980s, and the numbers “continue to rise at an
alarming rate.”

Findings from the EIU report entitled, Confronting Obesity in Europe: Taking action to change the default setting, include:

  • Variations in obesity rates suggest the need for more targeted programs because not all countries are experiencing the epidemic in the same way
  • Obesity-associated diseases and scarcity of data add to strains on health systems and make it difficult to assess the full costs of the obesity epidemic and the best proven ways to address it
  • A policy focus on prevention is of little use to those already severely affected by
    the disease
  • Only an integrated, multi-sectoral strategy is likely to cap the growth of obesity rates and that no European country currently has a comprehensive strategy
  • Creating an overall environment that deters obesity is key to solving the problem