WHO warns over diabetes risk from childhood obesity

by Sarita Sheth on September 20, 2012

Childhood obesity is a global problem

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century because of the likelihood of developing diabetes and other non communicable diseases such as heart disease, according to the World Health Organisation.

The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low and middle income countries, particularly in urban settings and the prevalence has increased at an alarming rate, says the Swiss based organisation.

Globally, in 2010 the number of overweight children under the age of five is estimated to be over 42 million. Close to 35 million of these are living in developing countries.

In its latest report it says that overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop diseases like diabetes at a younger age. Yet overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority.

WHO has launched a report with advice on how to tackle the prevalence of overweight and obesity which has increased substantially over the past three decades.

‘While the need for preventive action is increasingly recognised, policy implementation often occurs in a non-systematic, ad hoc manner. The purpose of this document is to provide a set of tools for Member States to determine and identify priority areas for action in the field of population based prevention of childhood obesity,’ it says.

It calls on health authorities to undertake four crucial steps: problem identification and needs analysis; Identification of potential solutions; Assessment and prioritisation of potential solutions; and Strategy development.

‘While these priority setting approaches all contain common elements, the contexts in which they are used, the processes they involve, and the technical analyses differ and selection of the most appropriate tool is dependent on the purpose, desired outcomes and criteria to be used for assessment, level of resources and data available,’ says the document.

It stresses that regardless of the tool selected, due consideration must be given to local, regional or country specific factors when analysing potential areas for action. Finally, the identification of key stakeholders and the outlining of their potential roles and responsibilities is critical for the prioritization process.

It adds that priority setting to create a set of recommended, promising policy interventions is an essential part of evidence informed policy making.

‘However, it is only the beginning of the process. The recommendations need to be accepted by the community leaders or politicians from different sectors who make the decisions and this usually takes an advocacy effort. Once endorsed, the actions need to be funded and implemented requiring project or programme management skills through a multisectoral implementation process,’ it concludes.

‘In every region of the world, obesity doubled between 1980 and 2008. Today, half a billion people, 12% of the world’s population, are considered obese,’ said Dr Ties Boerma, director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information Systems at WHO.

The highest obesity levels are in the WHO Region of the Americas at 26% of adults and the lowest in the WHO South-East Asia Region with 3% obese.

WHO adds that in all parts of the world, women are more likely to be obese than men, and thus at greater risk of diabetes.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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