New figures published by the World Obesity Federation in Pediatric Obesity suggest that if current trends continue, by 2025 some 268 million school-aged children (age 5 to 17.9 years) worldwide will suffer excess bodyweight including 91 million who will have obesity. This is an increase from 223 million in 2013, and is in addition to the estimated 41 million children under age five who are currently overweight or obese.
In addition to rising levels of overweight and obesity, the analysis also suggests large numbers of children globally will be affected by obesity-related diseases by 2025. This includes up to 28 million with hypertension, 39 million with fatty liver disease, 15 million with impaired glucose tolerance and as many as 4 million with Type 2 diabetes, a disease which usually affects older age groups. (Note some children will have more than one condition.)
Perhaps of most concern is the fact that 80% of child overweight and obesity is expected to occur in low and middle income countries, where health systems will face rapid increases in demand for treating chronic diseases, and economic productivity will be reduced.
The President of the World Obesity Federation, Professor Ian Caterson from the Boden Institute at the University of Sydney, said “The obesity epidemic has reached virtually every country in the world, and overweight and obesity levels are continuing to rise in most places. It is of particular concern that it is the low and middle income countries who have the least resources to treat obesity are likely to have the greatest burden. Governments know the present childhood obesity epidemic is unsustainable and doing nothing is not an option. That’s why we are calling for urgent action.”
In the last ten years, consumption of sugary drinks worldwide increased by a third (33%). More than half of the world’s population now live in urban environments, while 80% of young people aged 11-17 fail to get sufficient physical activity.
In 2012 governments all around the world made a commitment to reduce the prevalence of young child and adolescent obesity to 2010 levels by the year 2025. In 2016 the governments of the World Health Assembly considered the report of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity and resolved to develop national responses to implement the Commission’s recommendations.
Dr Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy at the World Obesity Federation and author of the research commented “Soft drink and fatty food consumption have increased world-wide and children are becoming more sedentary. Junk food advertising continues to influence food choices, and increasing numbers of families live on low incomes in urban environments – a recipe for weight gain. Governments have pledged to reduce child and adolescent obesity to 2010 levels by the year 2025. Governments will utterly fail to meet this target unless they take strong action, including setting high standards for public sector food supplies, using public sector purchasing power, and introducing market interventions including taxation, labelling and advertising restrictions.”
There is a need to improve the delivery of weight management and treatment services to ensure access for every person who needs them, children and adults alike. Medical services will need funding, staff will need training, and proper care pathways must be developed to ensure everyone has access to the care they need.
Source: World Obesity Federation