2022: a milestone year for obesity, with recognition of obesity as a disease, new WHO recommendations and Acceleration Plan.
2022 was a significant year for obesity as policies gained global recognition through a new set of WHO recommendations on the prevention, management and treatment of obesity throughout the life course, alongside a WHO Acceleration Plan to support implementation, adopted by countries at the 74th World Health Assembly. This followed ICD-11 coming into force at the start of the year, which clearly defines obesity as a disease.
Throughout the year, World Obesity’s policy and advocacy team have been hard at work to shape the obesity narrative, advance action on the recommendations, and form meaningful collaborations to advance the global obesity agenda.
Below we share a few highlights from 2022 and reflect on a vision for 2023.
New Recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity over the life course
2022 has been a pivotal year, bringing obesity to the forefront of the global health and political stage. The 150th Executive Board (EB) saw the approval of detailed and comprehensive obesity recommendations that build on existing commitments of Member States to address NCDs, nutrition and physical inactivity.
World Obesity and its Members participated in the EB, advocating for obesity integration into the NCD response as an NCD in its own right across various agenda items, and calling for a comprehensive action plan covering treatment and prevention. As an outcome of the discussions, an Acceleration Plan was requested by the Executive Board to be considered at the following World Health Assembly in May.
Pivotal moment to addressing obesity: Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly (WHA75) and the Acceleration Plan
Obesity was high on the agenda at the 75th World Health Assembly (22 - 28 May) as part of an WHO NCD Resolution which included the Recommendations on obesity and the presentation of WHO’s Acceleration Plan to support implementation in front-runner countries.
After months of effort from World Obesity and our members, WHA75 adopted a new set of Recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity throughout the life course, and an accompanying Acceleration Plan to support implementation in selected frontrunner countries. There was widespread recognition of the need to act on obesity and growing momentum amongst countries and across the WHO to address this. This is an important milestone in global obesity policy and is testament to the hard work of the obesity community over recent months and years.
NCDs were also front-and-centre at WHA75, with several agenda items addressing one of the most pressing global health challenges of the 21st century. Member States endorsed an implementation road map (2023-2030) to support the NCD Global Action Plan (2013-2030) and accelerate action to address NCDs globally.Read More
Overcoming barriers to obesity policy
A World Obesity - UNICEF side event at WHA75
On the side-lines of WHA75, the Global Obesity Coalition (formed in 2021 by World Obesity, UNICEF and WHO to lead, coordinate and drive action on obesity globally) held a breakfast meeting. With global obesity targets being catastrophically missed, our event ‘Seizing the opportunity: overcoming key barriers to success on obesity policy’ discussed what can and must be done to overcome current barriers to implementing obesity policies and help ensure successful implementation of the WHO Recommendations and Acceleration Plan.
The event aimed to convene and mobilise missions and civil society around the urgent need for action on obesity; interrogating political barriers and showcasing promising national-level work that overcome barriers to implementation.
Working with members to advance global and national action on obesity
Members are critical to the success of our advocacy, and throughout 2022 we have worked closely with members to achieve our shared goals, particularly in relation to the WHO recommendations and ensuring they were adopted. Some highlights have included:
- Call to action letter for World Obesity Day: To mark World Obesity Day 2022 and ahead of WHA, over 200 patients, academics, health professionals and civil society organisations made an open call to Health Ministers for a Global Action Plan on Obesity to be developed, and demanded strong, bold, integrated and comprehensive action on obesity, with people at the heart of actions to be implemented. Read our open letter.
- Member Q&A sessions: One held before the World Health Assembly and two held after to provide updates on the global agenda and what it means for national obesity action.
- Briefing notes have been provided for all members in Frontrunner countries, to support their engagement with the Acceleration Plan.
- Social media campaign at ECO, where members are others were invited to post pictures of themselves with the call to action ahead of the World Health Assembly.
- Regional Committees: World Obesity members attended this year’s WHO Regional Committee Meetings, delivering statements on relevant agenda items and reaffirming their country’s commitment to address obesity. Since World Obesity is in ‘official relations’ with the WHO, participation in all of the regional meetings as an official non-state actor is enabled. World Obesity members attended and delivered statements in the African, South-Eastern and European regional committees, and made further contributions in the Americas, Western-Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean.
Economic impact and national action on obesity
World Obesity and RTI International published new data on the economic impact of obesity in 161 countries globally, predicting a global economic impact of 3.3% of GDP by 2060 through avoidable costs associated with obesity-related NCDs. Halting obesity at 2019 levels could save the global economy 2.2 trillion USD. This new economic insight is timely, following the adoption of new WHO recommendations and Acceleration Plan on obesity, and valuable for driving forward national action on obesity as a critical health priority.
To launch the new World Obesity and RTI International global obesity economics research, we co-hosted a side event with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNICEF and with support from Novo Nordisk.
This event was held on the side lines of the 2022 UN General Assembly, explored the newly launched insight and analysis of the economic impact of obesity with the help of high-profile experts in the health and obesity fields.Read more about the event
Supporting research for policy on childhood obesity
In 2022, we continued to work as a Consortium partner in two European projects: CO-CREATE and the Science and Technology in Childhood Obesity project (STOP). Both projects are committed to adopting a life course approach to assessing the determinants, system-level drivers, and appropriate interventions to address the childhood obesity epidemic.
It has been a busy but successful year for the STOP project, which came to an end in November 2022 after 4.5 years. We were involved in some key project outputs for STOP in 2022 with highlights including, but not limited to, the following:
- The release of a special issue in Obesity Reviews on childhood determinants (to coincide with World Obesity Day 2022),
- The preparation of a joint call to action with partner projects on preventing childhood obesity across Europe,
- The creation of eight factsheets for knowledge translation,
- The further development of resources on Healthy Voices (youth facing website)
- Events and symposiums, including a joint symposium in Brussels, a stakeholder event in Ljubljana where World Obesity led a civil society session and a final conference in Rome.
The CO-CREATE project has now entered its final year. 2022 was productive, featuring conference symposia, new usage of the Dialogue Forum tool, youth engagement, promotion of the MOVING/NOURISHING databases and a joint call to action on childhood obesity. Researchers and youth advocates attended events such as ICO, ECO and the WHO Euro Health and Well-being Forum for Youth.
Planning for 2023 activities is now underway; including further conference symposia, joint workshops, social media, youth engagement and a project research supplement. The latest CO-CREATE newsletter can be found here.
Improving food systems and addressing the commercial determinants of health
Food Systems continues to be an area of interest for World Obesity. At the end of 2021, we received a small grant from The Wellcome Trust as part of the Health Climate Network, which included running a youth-led workshop and short podcast series.
The Workshop, titled ‘Youth Voices for Climate Health’, aimed to facilitate youth networking and discussion in the health and climate advocacy space and had an outcome document focused on young people’s priorities for improving human and planetary health through food systems.
The short podcast series, which made up season two of our ‘Youth Voices for Healthy Choices’ podcast placed a spotlight on the interrelationship between climate and health, and provided an opportunity for young people to discuss their priorities ahead of COP27 discussions.
Obesity and climate change: corporate greenwashing at COP27
World Obesity, together with 60 health organisations from around the world, called on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to manage conflicts of interest and limit the influence and interference of environment- and health-harming industries at COP27.
Coca-Cola is the world’s leading plastic polluter, whose products are linked to obesity and NCDs. The health community therefore mobilised during COP27 to voice their objection to Coca-Cola's sponsorship and call for enforcement of robust mechanisms to mitigate against corporate capture.
2023: Accelerating action on obesity
2023 will be a year with ample opportunities for global action on obesity. Key priorities for World Obesity and its members will be to:
- Support the WHO with the delivery of the Acceleration Plan on obesity, leading on civil society mobilisation to help drive forward comprehensive national action and implementation of the obesity recommendations in frontrunner countries and beyond.
- Raise the importance of addressing obesity in health systems, at the UN high-level meeting on UHC in September.
- Support members with national advocacy to secure national strategies on obesity, both in frontrunner countries and non-frontrunner countries.
- Explore opportunities to further the 2022 economics work, focusing on national investment cases in priority countries.
2022 has been a pivotal year in achieving recognition for urgent action on obesity, and as we act together to drive meaningful change for a healthier future for everyone, we will lead on civil society advocacy efforts to advance the global obesity agenda.
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