Friday 20 November marked World Children’s Day, celebrating the anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This legally binding treaty outlines children’s rights and holds governments accountable to meet children’s basic needs.
The Convention specifically highlights the responsibility from States Parties to take appropriate measures to “combat disease and malnutrition” and “to ensure all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition.”
Unfortunately, the current global landscape shows that Member States are not adequately upholding their responsibilities. Around the world, numbers of childhood obesity are nearly doubling every 10 years: the estimated number of children aged 5-19 years living with obesity has increased from 86 million in 2010 to 158 million in 2020, and projected to reach 254 million in 2030. As it stands, no country is on track to meet the WHO targets for obesity by 2025, which was modestly set at “no increase in obesity.”
Recognising that childhood obesity is a global problem, the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity published a comprehensive framework for action in its 2016 report Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO).
In October, we held a series of virtual meetings with a group of key childhood obesity stakeholders, focused on assessing the implementation of ECHO’s six key areas of action.
The overarching aim of the meetings was to identify cross-cutting and shared opportunities, learning and concrete actions to help drive forward policies to address childhood obesity in line with WHO’s ECHO plan.
Following our three stakeholder meetings, we formulated along with the participants the following recommendations for enhancing global response to childhood obesity and increase the implementation of ECHO:
- Establish a monitoring and accountability framework
- Adopt a life course, holistic approach to health and focus on the key life stages as defined by WHO
- Increase levels of political leadership, including strong governance and coordination mechanisms to ensure the establishment of intersectoral and multisectoral action
- Adopt a multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach to create a healthier environment for all children and their families
- Implement a ‘whole of government’, cross-department approach to action on obesity, including all relevant ministries
- Invest in obesity prevention and treatment as a cost-effective strategy to ensure the health of all individuals and ensure the sustainability of the health system
- Incorporate the rights of children living with obesity into human rights legislation, health care and education systems
- Ensure interventions and guidelines to address childhood obesity are coherent and comprehensive, and include all environments and the systems that create them
- Ensure national plans include actions that address the inequalities and stigma faced by children living with obesity
- Counter racism, social inequality and the barriers to social determinants
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Stepping up action on childhood obesity
Barriers, lessons and next steps for implementing the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood ObesityDownload (1.91 MB)