The first global atlas on childhood obesity by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) shows that no country has a better than fifty percent chance of meeting their target for tackling childhood obesity.
After agreeing at the World Health Assembly in 2013 that countries should ensure their levels of childhood obesity are no higher in 2025 than they were in 2010-2012, the latest analyses of trends in 196 countries found that 8 out of 10 countries (156) countries have less than a ten percent chance of meeting their target.
“The dramatic rise in the numbers of children affected by obesity is being driven by emerging economies – in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,” said Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy at the WOF and one of the authors of the World Obesity Federation’s report. “While North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are stabilising at high levels, the rest of the world is rapidly catching up, and in the case of some smaller countries heavily dependent on imported food supplies, now overtaking the levels seen in the West.”
What does the Atlas tell us?
The atlas presents data for every country based on their current and predicted levels of obesity in children, the risk factors and the presence of government policies to tackle obesity, such as restricting marketing of foods to children, encouragement of physical activity and nation guidelines for healthy diets. Based on these factors the Atlas gives each countries a score for their childhood obesity risk.
Action needs to be taken
Governments have repeatedly made commitments to addressing childhood obesity, most recently at the 2018 UN High Level meeting on NCDs. Despite this, while we have seen some progress made in some places, overall actions to back up commitments have been weak. For instance, 70% of countries still fail to report to have policies in place to restrict food marketing to children.
“This Atlas puts down a marker against which countries must take action,” noted WOF Chief Executive Officer, Johanna Ralston. “Just like the climate crisis, we are witnessing a critical failure of government to respect and protect our children’s rights to good health now and into the future. Both global heating and childhood obesity are suffering from a lack of government leadership, and a hostile commercial environment resisting change. We know we can do better, and we must.”
You can download the full report above.