Dear colleagues and friends,
As 2020 draws to a close, it is worth looking back on an extraordinary year of challenges and change.
As the first year in our new five year plan, January started with new projects for SCOPE, SCOPE Schools and global advocacy, a new initiative with RTI International on the economic impact of obesity as part of prioritising obesity prevention and treatment in national plans, and the updated Global Obesity Observatory. We were also busy with plans for the unified World Obesity Day on March 4, around the theme of the roots of obesity. The day itself was a great success, with huge media reach, events across five continents, profiling of the ROOTS declaration, and the launch of our new Missing the Targets report, assessing how far off the obesity-related UN targets were. A breakfast for key missions in Geneva on World Obesity Day set out the foundation for further joint activity, and a major daylong event in Mexico City on March 6 closed out World Obesity Day activities.
Then came the reality of COVID-19, and an emerging story of its association with obesity. Soon we were pivoting to a virtual world of work, and to responding to thousands of requests for information and facts about this new virus and its particular impact, issuing statements where appropriate. We launched a a webinar series with more than 1000 participants per session and launched a weekly new digest of stories from all over the world. We established a policy dossier on COVID and obesity and saw web traffic to our site on COVID and obesity grow to over 7000 unique visitors per day. We developed a SCOPE module on COVID-19 and obesity to ensure that health care providers have updated knowledge on the subject. With colleagues from other obesity organisations we sent an open letter to WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros to request that WHO incorporates language about the risks of COVID-19 complications for people with obesity in its guidance to countries.
Working with members, we reoriented joint activities to virtual versions. This included the joint ECO/ICO congress with our colleagues at EASO and ASOI, which tripled attendance targets by virtue of being online and with the largest numbers of participants from Brazil, Mexico and countries in the Gulf. We also held virtual roundtables on childhood obesity with colleagues from WHO, UNICEF, the Pacific community, and members from the US, Barbados, Mexico and many other countries. Our work with the EU CO-CREATE and STOP projects continued in virtual mode, and we held two meetings of the Global Obesity Forum, the invitation only convening for obesity stakeholders across the globe, with a specific aim for papers on building back better. Mike Bloomberg welcomed the first group and the result of both events was a manifesto which will be launched in advance of World Obesity Day.
The engine of all this activity was our members and partners. During our Annual General Meeting in July, we had almost all WOF members represented at the virtual meeting where we changed language in our articles of association to allow for more patient and other groups to become members. Together we are paving the way for further joint activities in 2021, including developing a common plan for our work with WHO, expansion of work in the Gulf, new themes for SCOPE, further growth of our journals, and ensuring obesity is included in major plans including the UN Food Systems Summit in October.
Wishing you all the best during this holiday season, and with hopes for a happy and positive 2021.
John Wilding & Johanna Ralston