Originally published December 9 2014
30% of world's population is obese, costing economy $2 trillion per year
by Daniel Barker
(NaturalNews) Almost one-third of the world's population is obese, and the global economic cost is nearly the same as that of smoking or even war, according to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
The researchers at MGI recently published a discussion paper, Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis, which outlines the issue and offers strategies for dealing with what is a preventable global problem -- and one which is increasingly growing worse.
With more than 2.1 billion obese or overweight people, the world faces an economic burden of around $2 trillion each year. Obesity accounts for roughly 5 percent of all deaths globally.
If the trend continues at its current rate, nearly half of the world's population will be obese by 2030.
At $2 trillion per year, obesity runs a close third behind the social burden of smoking and "armed violence, war and terrorism" ($2.1 trillion each).
Obesity costs more each year than alcoholism ($1.4 trillion), and like alcoholism, it afflicts people in both rich and poor nations.
The MGI researchers examined "interventions" currently being proposed or implemented in the effort to fight obesity, seeking to offer an "independent view" regarding possible approaches to reverting the trend.
Strategies for dealing with the problem are still in development, according to the authors:
Although the research offers an initial economic analysis of obesity, our analysis is by no means complete. ... We are sure that we have missed some interventions and over- or underestimated the impact of others. But we hope that our work will be a useful guide and a starting point for efforts in the years to come....
Among the main findings of the discussion paper:
"Existing evidence indicates that no single intervention is likely to have a significant overall impact." -- A set of carefully chosen initiatives, delivered "at scale," could lead to a reduction of obesity rates, while saving the public money in the long run. In other words, if the right strategies are pursued, investment in them will ultimately cost less than the financial burden that obesity already creates.
"Education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program aiming to reduce obesity, but they are not sufficient on their own." -- Due to a number of factors, including lack of available alternatives, people are eating the wrong types of food and not getting enough exercise. The researchers suggest implementing a combination of changes in "environment and societal norms" including "reducing default portion sizes, changing marketing practices, and restructuring urban and education environments to facilitate physical activities."
"No individual sector in society can address obesity on its own...." -- It will take efforts from top to bottom to effectively combat obesity. From government initiatives to personal responsibility, action at all levels is necessary.
"Implementing an obesity-abatement program on the required scale will not be easy." -- The authors advise that interventions at every level of society, as well as increased understanding of the factors at play and policies of not prioritizing intervention, are necessary for building effective strategies for fighting obesity on a global scale.
Obesity not only costs us a significant amount of money each year; it shortens lives and threatens future generations. Along with intervention and better education, an improved range of available healthy food choices is also an important factor.
A deeper understanding of the causes of obesity -- from the leadership level down to the personal -- is certainly part of the solution, but there also appears to be a need for a number of complementary obesity-combating strategies to be developed, if the MGI researchers are correct in their conclusions.
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