According to Reuters, a new World Health Organization (WHO) study published in The Lancet shows that the number of obese children and adolescents worldwide has jumped tenfold in the past 40 years and the rise is accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia.

“Over 40 years we have gone from about 11 million to a more than tenfold increase to over 120 million obese children and adolescents throughout the world,” said lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial College’s School of Public Health. This means that nearly 8% of boys and nearly 6% of girls worldwide were obese in 2016, against less than 1% for both sexes in 1975. An additional 213 million children aged 5–19 were overweight last year, but fell below the threshold for obesity, according to the largest ever study, based on height and weight measurements of 129 million people.

If current trends continue, in 2022 there will be more obese children and teenagers worldwide than underweight ones, who now number 192 million, half of them in India, the study said. Polynesia and Micronesia had the highest rates of child obesity last year, 25.4% in girls and 22.4% in boys, followed by “the high-income English-speaking region” that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Britain. Among high-income countries, the United States had “the highest obesity rates for girls and boys,” 19.5% and 23.3%, respectively.

In conjunction with the release on the new obesity estimates, WHO is publishing a summary of the Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) Implementation Plan. The plan gives countries clear guidance on effective actions to curb childhood and adolescent obesity. WHO has also released guidelines calling on frontline healthcare workers to actively identify and manage children who are overweight or obese.

Reuters article

WHO report

WHO Ending Childhood Obesity Implementation Plan (pdf)

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