Members of the European Parliament are leading a major new initiative to tackle Europe’s rising obesity epidemic, which currently costs governments more than €70 billion a year in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.
The MEPs, led by MEP Alfred Sant (Malta S&D), have launched a Written Declaration highlighting the prediction that by 2030 over 50 % of Europeans will be obese. In some countries the number of people who will be overweight or obese may even exceed 90%.
The initiative calls for the European Commission and the European Council to work towards a Europe-wide recognition of obesity as a chronic disease.
“Obesity causes many other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.” Sant said. “Better prevention and treatment of obesity will provide tangible healthcare system savings, as well as reducing the suffering of the millions affected.”
Speaking at a Healthy Breakfast event, held for MEPs at the European Parliament to launch the Declaration on 26 April, Mr Sant stressed that obesity is complex and is caused by many factors, including medical, cultural and socioeconomic dynamics.
“This being the case, there is an urgent need to recognise obesity as a disease in order to ensure better mobilisation of resources when it comes to the prevention, treatment and care of the disease,” he said.
Among other speakers at the event were Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the EU; Dr Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, President Elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO); and Ellen Govers from the European Federation of the Association of Dietitians.
The World Health Organization says that both societies and governments need to act to curb the growing obesity epidemic. “National policies should encourage and provide opportunities for greater physical activity, and improve the affordability, availability and accessibility of healthy foods. They should also encourage the involvement of different government sectors, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders,” says WHO.
The MEPs who have jointly initiated the Written Declaration with Mr Sant are Enrico Gasbarra (S&D), Marc Tarabella (S&D), Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD), Patricija Šulin (PPE), Giovanni La Via (PPE), Tomáš Zdechovský (PPE), Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE), Edward Czesak (ECR), and Ángela Vallina (GUE/NGL).
The Healthy Breakfast event was held in conjunction with EASO as one of the initiatives held in the run up to European Obesity Day, which takes place this year on 21 May, 2016. For more information about European Obesity Day, please visit the EOD2016 website www.europeanobesityday.eu