Changing the Future of Obesity

Science, Policy, and Action

Obesity has been increasing worldwide over the past 30 years in all segments of society and in countries rich and poor. Changes in the global food system (more low-cost, highly processed food) and to the built environment contribute to the obesity epidemic. Sustained obesity prevention efforts have barely begun.

These authors present results of an Australian study rating the cost effectiveness of 20 interventions—ranging from unhealthy food and beverage taxes and front-of-pack “traffic light” nutrition labeling to various school-based programs. Overall, policy approaches are more cost-effective than health promotion and clinical interventions.

A United Nations (UN) high-level September 2011 meeting on non-communicable diseases will explore solutions to reverse the obesity epidemic. The actions recommended should engage multiple sectors, among them:

  • Governments—health, finance, education, agriculture and urban planning ministries
  • International agencies—United Nations, World Health Organization, UNICEF, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the European Union
  • Private sector—food and beverage industries
  • Civil society—public interest and consumer associations, charities, academic institutions, foundations, professional associations, and community, religious and advocacy groups
  • Health professions
  • Individuals and caregivers

Declarations by UN member states need to be matched with supportive funding and policies to support global actions.