The WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 reveals that overweight and obesity rates have reached epidemic proportions across EU and are still escalating, with none of the 53 Member States currently on track to meet the WHO Global Non-communicable Disease (NCD) target of stopping the rise in obesity by 2025.

COVID-19 lockdowns have induced further shifts in diet and activity patterns, expected to affect population health in years ahead. Initiatives and political interventions have targeted obesity, albeit the progressive increase in rates heavily questions the efficacy of current systemic approaches. Particularly, prevalence in childhood & adolescence is alarming, with psychological / psychosocial impact and risks of adulthood obesity and NCDs2 increasing lifetime excess direct costs.

In this context, prevention is key in age groups <18, where long-term change prospects are higher for improved outcomes throughout adulthood with regard to healthier living and healthcare burden.

However, complex origins (beyond a mixture of unhealthy diet and physical inactivity) and a changing ecosystem hinder insight and intervention capacity, especially in the underage population. Given the imbalance between guideline abundance and the suboptimal societal penetration, present bottlenecks can be overcome via:

  • Improved data usage (health & socioeconomic) to decipher the transition to overweight / obesity
  • Personalised behavioural pathways on nutrition & activity
  • Stronger liaisons among research, healthcare & community for policy penetration and citizen awareness