WHO and Imperial College of London conducted a joint study that revealed that global rate of obesity in adolescents and children rose from less than one percent (i.e., five million girls and six million boys) in 1975 to almost 6% in girls (50 million) and nearly 8% in boys (74 million) in 2016. Precisely, the number of obese children, aged 5 to 19 years, increased more than ten times all over the world; from 11 million in the year 1975 to 124 million in the year 2016.
The study was published in October edition of the journal, The Lancet, calculated weight and height measurements from approximately 31.5 million people of age five to 19, and 97.4 million of age 20 and older. This made this study the largest epidemiological study to include maximum number of subjects till date.
Professor Majid Ezzati, the lead study author, expressed his concern on the food marketing policies of different countries across the world. He commented, “These worrying trends reflect the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities. The trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. We need ways to make healthy, nutritious food more available at home and school, especially in poor families and communities, and regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.”
Based on the study, WHO would publish a summary report of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan. The plan would offer guidelines on effective actions to curb childhood and adolescent obesity. WHO would also be publishing guidelines for health workers to identify and manage overweight children.
Dr. Fiona Bull, Program Coordinator for Surveillance and Population-Based Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) at WHO, said, “WHO encourages countries to implement efforts to address the environments that today are increasing our children’s chance of obesity. Countries should aim particularly to reduce consumption of cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense, nutrient poor foods. They should also reduce the time children spend on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities by promoting greater participation in physical activity through active recreation and sports.”