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October 11, 2018

To avert a global catastrophe, governments must act to stem the obesity epidemic

(New York, USA) Today, nearly a third of the world’s population – almost two billion people – will tip their scales into to the red zone of overweight or obesity. They are at risk of suffering serious health problems and premature death, largely because of the obesogenic environment in which they live. Vital Strategies recommends that governments develop and implement obesity prevention policies that make healthier foods more accessible, including regulation of the food and beverage industries.

José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies said, “Governments have the responsibility for health and must exert their power to implement promising and proven, cost-effective policies that can reduce the rate of weight-related diseases and premature mortality. Real changes in obesity levels happen when the healthy choice is the easy choice and governments must play a role in facilitating this. By enabling access to healthier food, governments have the power to avert further catastrophe.”

Proven and promising policies and strategies include:

1. Taxes on sugary beverages and junk food
Taxation is a highly effective tool in prompting a reduction in consumption of unhealthy products like tobacco. Research in Mexico shows that increasing taxes on sugary drinks has led to a decrease in consumption. A growing number of low- and middle-income countries are adopting this measure, but currently only 45 countries globally have implemented some form of tax or levy on sugary drinks.

2. Clear front-of-package labels
Research shows that clear warning labels are effective in improving consumer knowledge and positively influencing purchase intentions. Chile has been a world leader in this area by implementing easy-to-understand front of pack warning labels.

3. Marketing restrictions on unhealthy food and beverages, especially to children
A number of countries have acted to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks to children, just as they have for other unhealthy products like tobacco and alcohol. In Jamaica, research found that children consume most of their intake of sugary drinks at school, leading the government to implement a policy to reduce the availability of sugary drinks in schools.

4. Strategic communications campaigns
Vital Strategies has provided technical support for obesity prevention media campaign efforts in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, and South Africa. These campaigns have helped to raise public and policy concerns and helped advance key prevention policies like a sugary drinks tax in South Africa.

Globally, obesity is one of the top five leading causes of preventable death, killing more than 2.8 million people every year. It is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and some cancers – four of the top 11 global causes of death, according to the Global Burden of Disease study. Vital Strategies’ Fool Me Twice report exposes how Big Food and Big Soda are using tactics similar to Big Tobacco to delay and derail regulations designed to improve health.

For more information on Vital Strategies’ obesity prevention work, visit https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/obesity-prevention/

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health. We consult with governments on issues including restricting junk food marketing to kids, promoting smoke-free laws, improving indoor and outdoor air quality, and strengthening road safety. These are protections that add up to millions of lives saved. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. Our tobacco control work is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the global Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a report author or public health and tobacco control expert, please contact press@vitalstrategies.org

 

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