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Vital Stories

Spotlight: Obesity Prevention

Noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are a leading—and growing—cause of premature death around the world, and we cannot make progress in prevention unless we focus on obesity. More than 2 billion people—nearly a third of the world’s population—are obese or overweight. Once thought of as a product of high-income environments, the burden is shifting to low- and middle-income countries, often co-existing in communities with food insecurity, and is driving a wave of cancer, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. 

Obesity is a prime example of an issue where Vital Strategies’ work to strengthen public health systems can guide rapid progress to improve health for hundreds of millions: the problem is widespread but there are proven interventions that can prevent bad health, such as taxes on sugary beverages and restrictions on marketing for children. We support governments in implementing proven strategies, advance research to develop new ways forward, and advocate on the global level to bring greater attention to the issue. 

We’ve curated some obesity-related news and links from work across our programs: 

What To Watch 

How Mexico Stood Up to Big Soda and What Latin America Is Doing in the Fight Against Obesity. 

 Watch our Vital Talks speaker series from July 11: Alejandro Calvillo Unna, founder and director of Mexico’s El Poder del Consumidor (The Power of the Consumer) discusses how Mexico defied the powerful beverage industry and succeeded in passing a soda tax that has successfully reduced consumption. Moderated by  Paula Johns, co-founder and director of ACT Health Promotion, Brazil, and a leading public health activist. 

High-Impact Mass Media Ads From Around the World
We use evidence-driven media campaigns in target countries to build public support for smart health policies and change behaviors around unhealthy foods. See ads from Jamaica, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil on this curated YouTube playlist. 

Global Policy Watch 

In December 2017 we released “Fool Me Twice,” a landmark advocacy report that demonstrates how the multinational food and beverage companies—Big Food and Big Soda—are using all of the same unethical practices that got Big Tobacco banned from multilateral policy negotiations. A year-and-a-half later, the report still rings true. Read “Fool Me Twice.” 

From the Field 

Stay up to date on food policy in Brazil by reading on our Vital Stories blog, Will Brazil’s Bolsonaro Administration Stall Food Labels That Could Reduce Obesity?

Urban Health 

Vital Strategies sees cities as engines for global health. The Partnership for Healthy Cities is working with 11 cities around the world to improve food policies in public institutions such as schools and getting the word out about the health harms of sugary drinks and junk food. This  Le Monde op-ed  by Ouagadougou Mayor Armande  Béouindé (in French) does a good job of describing the Burkina Faso capital’s work with the Partnership to reduce sugar and salt consumption.  

Research Roundup 

Each month we publish a roundup of new research articles published in prominent journals in the previous month that are relevant to our portfolio of work. In addition to the June Research Roundup, we asked our obesity prevention team to identify  foundational research studies related to obesity prevention.