Obesity among leading causes of death, disability in Europe, Central Asia: WHO

Baku, May 4, AZERTAC

Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in Europe and Central Asia, increasing the risk for diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular illnesses, a WHO report said on Tuesday, according to Anadolu Agency.

“Obesity knows no borders. In Europe and Central Asia, no single country is going to meet the WHO Global NCD (non-communicable diseases) target of halting the rise of obesity,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

The region comprises 53 countries, extending from the Greenland in Atlantic to Vladivostok in the Pacific Ocean.

“The countries in our region are incredibly diverse, but everyone is challenged to some degree.”

Obesity increases the risk for many non-communicable diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and chronic respiratory diseases.

For example, obesity is considered a cause of at least 13 different types of cancer and is likely to be directly responsible for at least 200,000 new cancer cases annually across the Europe region.

That figure is set to rise further in the coming years, said the report. Overweight and obesity are also the leading risk factors for disability, causing 7% of total years lived with disability in the region.

Two-thirds of adults in the WHO European region, which includes one in three school-aged children, are overweight or obese.

People living with overweight and obesity have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, experiencing greater exposure to obesity risk factors and disruptions to help and treatment services during the pandemic, said the report.

It highlighted a few specific policies to reduce levels of obesity and overweight. Among these are the implementation of fiscal interventions, such as taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages or subsidies for healthy foods, and restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

It called for better access to obesity and overweight management services in primary health care, as part of universal health coverage.

The report stressed efforts to improve diet and physical activity, including preconception and pregnancy care, promotion of breastfeeding, school-based interventions, and interventions to create environments that improve the accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.

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