3 May 2022
Obesity is a complex multifactorial disease defined by excessive adiposity and is linked to an increased risk for many noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Overweight and obesity affect almost 60% of adults and nearly one in three children (29% of boys and 27% of girls) in the WHO European Region. Recent estimates suggest that overweight and obesity is the fourth most common risk factor for NCDs in the Region, after high blood pressure, dietary risks and tobacco. It is also the leading risk factor for disability, causing 7% of total years lived with disability, and obesity is linked to greater morbidity and mortality from COVID-19. Early studies from a number of countries in the Region indicate that the prevalence of overweight and obesity and/or mean body mass index has increased in children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines the growing challenge and impact of obesity in the Region, building on past publications and aligning with initiatives to tackle cancer. The report focuses on managing obesity throughout the life course and tackling obesogenic environments; it also considers more recent challenges, including problematic digital marketing to children and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on obesity prevalence. Policy options to prevent obesity are outlined for consideration by Member States together with a suite of population-level approaches. The report highlights the importance of including prevention and control of obesity within measures to build back better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing obesity is critical towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and is a priority in the European Programme of Work 2020–2025: United Action for Better Health.