Α new report released by the World Bank indicates that high rates of obesity are found among populations in developing countries, overturning the common belief that obesity is only a problem among the developed and wealthy nations of the world.
Putting more resources on the frontlines to detect and treat conditions early, before they become more serious, saves lives, improves health outcomes, reduces health care costs and strengthens preparedness.
More than 70 percent of the 2 billion overweight people in the world live in low- or mid-income countries, the report stated, making obesity a global challenge with significant consequences on health and economy.
“As countries grow economically and per capita incomes rise, the devastating impact and burden of obesity will continue to shift toward the poor,” Meera Shekar, co-author of the report, said.
Due to the high obesity levels, life expectancy is reduced while disabilities and health care costs increase to $7 trillion in developing countries in the next 15 years.
With the exception of Sub-Saharan African countries, obesity-related diseases are now one of the three most common causes of mortality worldwide, being responsible for an annual death toll of four million people since 1975.
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Bad nutritional habits including eating ultra-processed and sugary foods and limited physical activity are the main drivers of the obesity epidemic, the report said, while an effective way to confront it is by creating quality primary health care systems and implementing other preventive measures.
“This makes sense both from a health and an economic perspective,” Muhammad Pate, global director for health, nutrition and population at the World Bank, said. “Putting more resources on the frontlines to detect and treat conditions early, before they become more serious, saves lives, improves health outcomes, reduces health care costs and strengthens preparedness.”
Other measures to prevent the further rise of obesity levels are educating consumers, mandating processed food labeling and enforcing taxation of unhealthy foods, reducing the consumption of salt and sugar-sweetened beverages, and developing nutrition programs for children.