Stuff co.nz 6 April 2015
In 2010, humanity passed an important milestone. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, obesity became a bigger public-health problem than hunger.
Today, according to the latest edition of the study, more than 2.1 billion people – nearly 30 per cent of the global population – are overweight or obese. That is nearly two and a half times the number of adults and children who are undernourished. Obesity is responsible for about 5 per cent of deaths worldwide.
This crisis is not just a pressing health concern; it is also a threat to the global economy. The total economic impact of obesity is about US$2 trillion (NZ$2.67t) a year, or 2.8 per cent of world GDP – roughly equivalent to the economic damage caused by smoking or armed violence, war, and terrorism, according to new research by the McKinsey Global Institute.
And the problem is likely to worsen. If the current trend continues, almost half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030. As World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan has noted, “Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups.”
According to the OECD, from 2000 to 2013, the prevalence of obesity increased by at least 0.5 per cent per year in 130 of the 196 countries for which data were collected.
This global epidemic is not confined to advanced countries.