Statement to the Special Session of the WHO Executive Board, 5-6 October 2020
Provisional agenda item 3: Update on implementation of resolution WHA73.1 (2020) on the COVID 19 response
World Obesity commends WHO and its member states for their action to control COVID-19. As the pandemic evolves, it is now clear that in general, people living with obesity have up to seven times greater odds of suffering worse outcomes of COVID-19, while in younger populations overweight and obesity also appear to be risk factors for worse outcomes.
Obesity prevention and management must be considered in all response and recovery plans, but is not addressed in the current Resolution.
As well as disruption to policy implementation and services, measures like self-isolation and lockdown have resulted in mental health challenges, physical activity restrictions and limited accessibility to healthy food. COVID-19 has exposed fatal weaknesses in the most advanced health systems, where treatment and support for obesity and obesity-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), diabetes and cardiovascular disease, has receded.
According to our Missing the Targets report, no country is on track to meet WHO obesity targets. COVID-19 is an opportunity to change this trajectory and build forward better. Recognising the urgent need for action on obesity, we ask EB members to include obesity language in the COVID-19 Resolution.
All member states have a responsibility to build healthier, more resilient populations. Tackling obesity must be part of national strategies for COVID-19 in the short- and long-term. Specifically we call for:
- Recognition that the disease increases the risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19;
- Nutritionally adequate food to be made available for all, particularly for vulnerable populations;
- Policies and restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 allow for people to be physically active, while maintaining adequate physical distancing;
- People living with obesity have access to testing and are provided with care early;
- Patients living with NCDs have continued access to medications and treatments;
- Recognition that obesity is a disease.