Obesity: New WHO report shifts focus from the individual to societal causes

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A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the importance of structural drivers of obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report describing the lack of progress on controlling rising rates of overweight and obesity across Europe.No European nations are on track to achieve the obesity goals set out by the WHO in 2015, according to the report.

The organization proposes addressing societal factors that undermine healthy nutrition.

In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) has established a targetTrusted Source of halting a rise in obesity rates as part of their effort to contain the death toll of noncommunicable diseases by 2025. According to the WHO Regional Obesity Report 2022, not one of the 53 nations in the European region is currently on track to meet that goal.

The WHO has released a plan to accelerate progress toward reducing obesity that puts less of the burden on the individual to maintain healthy eating habits.

In a press release announcing the report, the WHO states:

“The new WHO report outlines how policy interventions that target environmental and commercial determinants of poor diet at the entire population level are likely to be most effective at reversing the obesity epidemic, addressing dietary inequalities, and achieving environmentally sustainable food systems.”

Dr. Joshua Petimar, Research Scientist within the Department of Population Medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston told Medical News Today, “Improving nutrition and health requires us to shift our focus from ‘personal responsibility’ toward broader society-wide solutions.”

“Eating behaviors are negatively influenced by many macroscopic factors, such as predatory industry practices, poor food access, unaffordability of healthy foods, and others. Proposed solutions that fixate on individual responsibility without targeting societal factors are not addressing the primary threats to populations’ nutrition and health.”

The report finds that barriers to implementing effective obesity policies include “the continuing narrative that addressing obesity is the responsibility of the individual, and not the responsibility of wider society, including governments.”

Arthur Delcourt, registered dietician and biomedical scientist at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, comments on the report via Twitter, saying, “So sad to note that obesity [continues its] epidemic run throughout the world.

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