Subjects: World news
Emerging economies must act immediately to halt rising obesity rates before the epidemic becomes as severe as it is in first-world countries, according to new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The OECD report was published in the Lancet. It characterizes the prevalence of obesity in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. Obesity rates were found to vary dramatically across these 6 countries. In Mexico, a stunning 70% of adults were reported to be overweight or obese. Nearly half of all Brazilians, Russians and South Africans fell into these categories. China and India had a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity, but were moving rapidly in the wrong direction, according to the OECD.
Developing nations don’t have enough resources to handle the health consequences of obesity, which include an increased risk of cardiac disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and disability from all causes.
As a result, the OECD has implored these countries to head-off the worsening crisis now, “as part of wider comprehensive health prevention strategies, rather than (waiting) until the costs of treating obesity-related illness (becomes) much more expensive.”
The OECD estimates that the per capita cost per year of a national campaign to prevent obesity and other health threats like cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake and high blood pressure would be less than $2 per-person in China and India, about $3 in Brazil, and $4 in Mexico, Russia and South Africa.
The campaign would include a mass media blitz designed to promote healthy lifestyles, taxes and subsidies aimed at improving diet, improved federal regulation of food labeling, and restrictions on advertising for fast food. It would add 1 million years of life in good health in India alone, and 4 million years in China during the next 2 decades. It would pay for itself immediately via reduced health care costs in 3 of the 6 countries surveyed, and would become cost-effective in the other three within 15 years.
“A multiple intervention strategy would achieve substantially larger health gains than individual programs, with better cost-effectiveness,” OECD health policy analyst and lead author Michele Cecchini said in a press release.