The peer-reviewed study examined 161 countries and looked at the current economic impact of obesity, as well as those who are overweight. Being overweight is defined as having more body weight than what is healthy for one’s age or physical build. Obesity is when a person has an excess amount of body fat, with a BMI of more than 30.
The study looks at the avoidable healthcare costs of obesity, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Healthcare savings to be made in tackling obesity
The study found that a 5% reduction in the expected prevalence of obesity between 2020 and 2060 would result in US$429bn in global annual savings.
Both direct and indirect costs were considered. Direct costs of obesity levels include medical and non-medical expenses.
Indirect costs cover the process of finding the right healthcare, the cost of travel for patients and also their caregivers. Economic loss from sick days, taking time off for appointments, reduced productivity while at work and even death were included.
“These estimates of the economic impact of overweight and obesity should alarm governments across the world,” said Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation. “The persistent stigmatisation of people living with obesity and policies that do not reflect the most recent evidence have led to failing approaches that ignore obesity’s root causes. This study has highlighted the need for urgent, concerted and holistic action to address the global rise in overweight and obesity prevalence. We can alter this through the right policy and private sector attention to reduce factors in the environment that can cause the non-communicable disease. Doing so will help to boost the wellbeing of people, provide economic gains and improve resilience to disease outbreaks.”
Making a move on the obesity trend outside of the healthcare industry
In England, all shops run by companies employing more than 50 people will be forbidden from using prominent locations in the shop to promote products which are high in fat, sugar or salt, by October.
The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, is being urged to stand by this new measure to tackle junk food, as rumours circulate that she may reverse the long-awaited ban.
A letter from the Obesity Health Alliance, signed by organisations such as the British Medical Association (BMA), British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, have encouraged Truss to strongly “Reconsider any plans to weaken the public health measures”. It continued to say that reducing preventable illness caused by the consumption of junk food would be essential in reducing the NHS backlog. There were over 1m admissions to NHS hospitals between 2019 and 2020, where obesity was a factor.
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