Obesity is a global challenge that extends across all countries and cultures. It impacts individuals, communities, nations, and economies everywhere. That is why, on March 4th every year, the obesity community comes together to call for widespread change.
Over a year ago, on World Obesity Day 2021, the link between obesity and worsened COVID-19 outcomes was clear – a stark reminder of why we urgently need to curb the rise of the disease. The 2021 World Obesity Day campaign, ‘Every Body Needs Everybody’, achieved record press coverage, digital reach, and engagement, demonstrating the true extent of public interest and support.
And yet the global response remained sluggish. In 2022, not a single country is even close to meeting the WHO’s target to halt obesity case rate rises by 2025 – quite the opposite. Our 2022 World Obesity Atlas Report predicts that 1 billion people will be living with obesity by 2030.
For World Obesity Day 2022, we knew it was not enough to raise awareness. We had to find ways to turn public feeling into real, effective action. We settled on the simple but essential message that now, more than ever, ‘Everybody Needs to Act’ to address obesity together.
A global effort
World Obesity Day is convened by the World Obesity Federation, but its power lies in the inspiring messages and actions of obesity organisations, civil society groups, employers, healthcare professionals, and people living with obesity around the world. This year’s campaign was designed to reflect that, with flexible messaging and imagery that could be tailored to suit unique local needs and priorities.
Despite ongoing COVID-19 disruptions in many countries, hundreds of people once again stepped up to take part in World Obesity Day. We saw contributions from at least 64 countries and received over 150 notices of events, stories, publications, and personal actions to the World Obesity Day website. All over the world, significant steps were taken to progress the obesity agenda.
Many organisations focused on national action. Australia launched its National Obesity Strategy. In Mexico, 1,000 health professionals signed a position statement calling for immediate national action, while Europe’s MEP Interest Group on Obesity and Health System Resilience launched a Declaration for National Action Plans on Obesity. The UK’s Royal College of Physicians called for a National Obesity Prescription for England and released a powerful documentary about the issue. Spain’s ASEPO made a public call to media, medical, and government groups, while in Italy a major press conference took place at Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian Senate. In the Philippines, the Department of Health and other development partners called for a whole-of-society approach to reduce obesity in the country.
There were many excellent conferences, webinars and discussions, such China’s Obesity Prevention and Control Society’s first ever World Obesity Day webinar, which was attended by 20,000 people. Azerbaijan’s Academy of Nutrition, Dietetic and Obesity Prevention (ANDOP) coordinated another successful and well-attended annual conference. In Brazil, the Painel Brasileiro da Obesidade invited experts to share their experiences of multi-professional initiatives to reduce obesity in a virtual event. The Obesity Society of Nigeria, together with the Medical Women's Association of Nigeria, held a webinar and a workout activity in Ebonyi state. Our US members coordinated another excellent Obesity Care Week including the Obesity Medicine Association’s (OMA) virtual roundtable discussion and The Obesity Society’s (TOS) Twitter chat.
Community activities were launched around the world, including group walking and activity challenges in France, Slovakia, and India, and mixed events programmes in El Salvador and Argentina. In the Caribbean, the Rotary District 7030 encouraged people to take part in physical activity challenges with ‘7030 Moves for COP’, while in Spain the GASOL foundation called on educational centres, social and sports institutions and companies committed to children's health to join them in four activities to learn and enjoy healthy habits.
There were some superb public education campaigns, including videos and posters across the subway network in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and in the Paris metro in France. And it was particularly exciting to see so many people with lived experience taking part in the day, including ECPO’s patient lounge, the Australian Weight Issues Network’s chat session, and GOPA’s patient groups uniting to take action around the globe. Many people also shared powerful video and written testimonies on the World Obesity Day website.
That is just a flavour of the activities and actions that took place this year. You can see much more on our website and via the campaign’s social media hashtags: #WorldObesityDay #EverybodyNeedsToAct and #WOD2022.
Another record year
With so much activity, World Obesity Day 2022 proved to be an extremely successfully campaign, seeing significantly improved metrics despite the challenging global situation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The central digital campaign received 10 million impressions, there was a 122% increase in website users from 2021, and a 33% increase in resource downloads. Our World Obesity Atlas Report 2022, which launched on March 4th and provides a comprehensive look at obesity globally, saw a staggeringly high click-through rate of 64%.
Such high levels of visibility and engagement are a clear indication of the strength of support for action on obesity around the world, and a reminder of the power of a truly collaborative, supportive, global campaign.
Building momentum for global action
World Obesity Day 2022 fell between two important events in the global obesity policy calendar: the meeting of the WHO Executive Board in late January, and the World Health Assembly in May. As such, it was an excellent opportunity to push for the consideration of recommendations to curb the rise of NCDs and obesity. As a community, we took some important steps to ensure that obesity remains firmly on the global policy agenda, including:
- The policy event ‘Building Momentum for Global Action on Obesity’ – a special session convening WHO and key member states, including opening remarks from WHO director general Dr Tedros and further statements by the Oman Minister of Health and officials from four Member States – Malaysia, Slovenia, Bangladesh, and Brazil.
- A letter to global health leaders calling on them to support global action on obesity, which gained nearly 200 signatories.
- The publication of the World Obesity Atlas 2022, which provides up-to-date country report cards to help states assess and prioritise their obesity response, and highlights the worrying rise in obesity prevalence, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries, which could result in 1 billion people living with obesity by 2030.
On the day itself, WHO director general Dr Tedros warned that “The Covid 19 pandemic has rightly commanded the world's attention for more than 2 years. But at the same time another global health crisis is continuing to grow and to kill: the obesity crisis.” He announced that “At this year's World Health Assembly, WHO will present a plan to accelerate the fight against obesity in high burden countries and to catalyse global action…Because Everybody Needs to Act.”
More than just one day
World Obesity Day is just one day of the year, but action on obesity can and must take place all year round. That’s why this year’s World Obesity Day website features inspiring stories from members, civil society, and individual advocates, that demonstrate how people can make a lasting difference. We hope that the ‘Everybody Needs To Act’ campaign has sparked even more stories of action – and we invite you to continue sharing your insights and activities with us over the course of the year.
World Obesity Day is gathering steam. Every year, we engage more people with our cause. Let’s use that momentum to power ongoing action, so we have even more to celebrate and champion next March 4th, 2023.WORLD OBESITY DAY