Boston, MA The global obesity epidemic has been escalating for decades, yet long-term prevention efforts have barely begun and are inadequate, according to a new paper from international public health experts published in the August 25, 2011 edition of the journal The Lancet. Noting that many countries lack basic population-wide data on children's weight and height, the authors call on governments around the world to launch a coordinated effort to monitor, prevent, and control obesity, and the long-term health, social and economic costs associated with it.
The paper is part of a special Lancet series on obesity.
"By imposing tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and limiting marketing of unhealthy foods to children, governments can lead in making it easier for children to make healthy choices," said lead author Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
Special taxes and marketing restrictions to discourage smoking have been effective in tobacco control and likely would be effective in reducing SSB consumption, the authors note. Consuming sugar-sweetened beverages increases risk of excess weight gain and obesity which can lead to a host of health problems, including type 2 diabetesand SSBs have no additional nutritional value beyond calories, Gortmaker and his colleagues say.
International organizations like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and others must participate with the public and private sector to target children and adolescents, in particular, with these and other cost-effective strategies that encourage healthy eating habits and physical activity, the authors say.
In the last 30 years, obesity, defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of more than 30 in adults, has increased globally in both rich and poor countries and in all segments of society. (BMI is weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters
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Harvard School of Public Health