Governments fight global obesity, a Covid-19 risk factor

According to the WHO’s figures from 2016, 13% of the world’s population is obese. (Rawpixel pic)

LONDON: The British government recently woke up to the need for a more drastic health policy related to obesity, which affects 28.1% of the English population, introducing a new plan to fight this worrying epidemic.

The stakes are even higher now as research suggests obesity is an aggravating factor for Covid-19.

The UK government has issued a plan to fight obesity, an epidemic that may be quieter than Covid-19 but just as deadly.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted public health campaigns until now, seems to have recognised the key role of the state in this battle.

The plan proposes measures already enacted in other countries, such as eliminating online and television advertising for junk food until after 9pm, when children are less likely to be watching, and more radical ideas such as preventing store promotions for junk food.

A big push for cycling and walking rounds out the proposal with the creation of new biking lanes and doctors’ recommendations for the most affected areas.

Obesity became a major public health issue during the early 2000s, with the first appearance of alarming statistics on obesity worldwide. Since then, several laws have been enacted around the world.

France

Major prevention campaigns include 2001’s Manger, bouger (Eat, move).

The government’s Nutriscore, a five-color informative logo, is mandatory on all prepackaged foods. In 2019 the fight against obesity became a national objective and ex-Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe’s plan projects a 15% reduction by 2023.

United States of America

When Michelle Obama made the matter a social and health emergency in 2010, the country started several initiatives, most notably requiring calorie information labels in fast food restaurants.

The Child Nutrition Act required banning snack food dispensers and fatty foods from schools, and recalibrating lunch menus towards healthier foods.

The Netherlands

The Centre for Nutrition was created to supply recipes and advice for healthier eating via a website and app.

Canada

The government restricted advertising for sodas and food marketed to children. This WHO-recommended measure is widely followed: Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, and Chile have also adopted it.

Mexico

Mexico has the highest obesity rate in the world, alongside Egypt, and has taken the most radical measure by imposing a tax on all foods exceeding a certain number of calories.

Japan

The country known for skinny citizens took drastic measures in 2008, when its obesity rate hadn’t even exceeded 3%. People are classified as overweight, or metabo, when their waist measurements exceed 85 cm for men and 90 cm for women.

They are required to seek counselling, change their lifestyles and are monitored by local authorities and their employers.

Chile

Chile enacted severe measures in 2016, when it required food products considered too sweet or too fatty to be duly labelled.

Most can no longer be sold in schools, and meals and candy can no longer be sold with a toy.

According to the latest figures from the WHO (2016), 13% of the worldwide population is obese.