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Tackling obesity and Non Communicable Diseases

Obesity is a global public health challenge

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified obesity as one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century.

Since 1980, epidemiological data show that obesity prevalence has tripled in many countries in the WHO European Region. WHO Regional Office for Europe indicates, "The numbers of those affected continue to rise at an alarming rate, particularly among children. Obesity is already responsible for 2-8% of health costs and 10-13% of deaths in different parts of the Region" (WHO, 2008).

The sudden acceleration in the prevalence of obese and overweight children in Europe will lead to severe public health problems in the coming years.

Today, a billion adults are overweight; and if nothing is done about it, by 2015, there will be one and a half billion - including 22 million children under 5 years old.

The probability of a child's overweight continuing into his or her adult years varies with the age of the child. For children who were overweight or obese prior to puberty, 20-50% will be overweight as an adult, and this rises to 50-70% for children who are overweight or obese in adolescence (Charles, 2001).

A significant portion of today's obese children will therefore become obese adults, but, unfortunately, they will already have accumulated years of cardiometabolic risk by the time they reach adulthood. New pathologies are appearing at a younger age, and even though these are currently still marginal, children are already experiencing diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, not to mention all the complications linked to overweight (e.g. skin diseases and respiratory, rheumatologic, psychological and social problems) (Strong et Al., 2005).

According to WHO, it was estimated in 2005 that from 58 million deaths from all causes, chronic diseases (including stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes) would have accounted for 35 million deaths. This is double the number of deaths from all infectious diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions and nutritional deficiencies combined (WHO, 2004).