Lancet Commission on Obesity

The formal announcement of the Lancet Commission on Obesity can be found here, published in the 31 October 2015 edition of The Lancet.

Background

  • Many authoritative reports, including the two Lancet Series on Obesity, have identified what needs to be done to reduce obesity; the challenge is to stimulate progress and strengthen accountability systems for the implementation of recommended policies and actions
  • The global increase in obesity is also a highly visible sign (‘the canary in the coalmine’) of deeper problems within the societal systems which are driving overconsumption in general, denigrating environments, and creating inequalities and societal problems
  • Obesity is the result (called ‘emergence’) of many complex, manmade systems, including: food supply, transport, urban design, business, socio-cultural, marketing, communications, education, health, trade, legal, economic, and governance systems. All could potentially be re-oriented for better population and environmental outcomes.
  • ‘Environments’ refer to the natural ecosystems, as well as physical, economic, policy and socio-cultural environments related to food and physical activity

The Lancet Commission on Obesity

The Lancet has established a number of Commissions on Global Health issues and more recently on Clinical issues. The nature and scope of the Commissions vary depending on the issue, the work plan developed by the Commissioners, and the resources available.  The Lancet Commission on Obesity will be co-chaired by Professor Boyd Swinburn (University of Auckland, UoA) and Professor Bill Dietz (George Washington University, GWU) and it will be a partnership between Lancet, UoA, GWU, and World Obesity Federation (WOF). The draft aims of the Lancet Commission on Obesity are:

  • To stimulate action and strengthen accountability systems for the implementation of agreed recommendations to reduce obesity and its related inequalities
  • To develop new understandings of the underlying systems that are driving obesity and to develop innovative approaches to re-orient those systems towards being less obesogenic

Alongside these aims, the Commission will also establish mechanisms for regular, independent reporting on progress towards national and global obesity targets, implementation of recommended policies and actions, and specific systems analyses of obesity drivers and solutions.

Commissioners

There is a core of 23 Commissioners and 3 Fellows who are high level experts in obesity and the underlying systems which are driving obesity. The Commission is being co-chaired by Professor William Dietz and Professor Boyd Swinburn.

The table below outlines the diversity of expertise of the Commissioners.

Expertise sought amongst Commissioners
Global obesity     Governance/politics      Consumer advocacy     
Food systems Legal systems System / implementation science
Physical activity Economics Monitoring and evaluation
Built environment Business Climate change
Transport systems Trade and investment Human rights
Medicine/health care 
Marketing Cultural and religious systems
Inequalities Communications Education

The full list of Commissioners and Fellows is available here.

Related activities

While the Commission will be independent of state and commercial interests, there are several related global activities which the Commission will build upon. These include major UN activities such as WHO’s Global Action Plan on NCDs and its monitoring framework, WHO’s Commission to End Childhood Obesity (ECHO), and UN activities on food (follow up on the WHO/FAO International Congress on Nutrition commitments), human rights (application of the Ruggie Principles on Business and Human Rights) and climate change. Other relevant, independent activities include other Lancet Series and Commissions and existing monitoring systems for obesity and its determinants (eg Global Nutrition Report and the INFORMAS group’s monitoring of food environments).

There have been two Lancet Series on Obesity, one published August 2011 (available here) and one published February 2015 (available here)