World Obesity Federation statement on the Cancer Research UK obesity campaign
Obesity is a challenge in the UK and across the world. Today, 29 percent of UK adults live with obesity and this has driven increases in multiple cancers, in addition to heart disease and diabetes type-2. Worldwide, 2 billion people live with overweight and obesity, and billions more are at risk—the vast majority in low and middle income countries.
Over the past few weeks, following a campaign by Cancer Research UK, there has been a healthy public debate about obesity and its relationship to cancer and other NCDs. While stimulating the debate, there have also been negative consequences arising from the campaign, not least that it has perpetuated weight stigma by conflating weight with obesity and not doing enough to refute the myth that obesity is a result of poor individual choices.
Donna Ryan, President of the World Obesity Federation said: ”What is most striking is the response of people affected by obesity, many of whom are individuals that we and our members organisations are privileged to work with. People with obesity across the globe face an extraordinary amount of stigma, including from health professionals and systems. Even the prevailing resistance to the concept of obesity as a disease reinforces individual blame.”
No country is on target to meet the World Health Organization’s global target to halt the rise in obesity by 2025. She added: “Changing the obesity narrative must start with health systems themselves, which are currently ill-equipped and overburdened.”
Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive of the World Obesity Federation said: “We appreciate that the campaign has elevated important issues about the links between obesity and other NCDs, but hope that the health community find ways to address obesity in a manner that does not stigmatise those living with the disease. Instead, let us focus on solutions to overcoming bias and barriers in health systems, while supporting and respecting patients.”