Public Release: 

Obesity Day to highlight growing obesity epidemic in Europe

European Obesity Day press release, March 24, 2016

European Association for the Study of Obesity

Brussels, 24 March 2016: The growing obesity epidemic, which is predicted to affect more than half of all European citizens by 2030, will be the focus of European Obesity Day to be held on 21 May.

According to World Health Organisation, obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. Its prevalence has tripled in many countries of the WHO European Region since the 1980s, and the numbers of those affected continue to rise at an alarming rate.

In addition to causing various physical disabilities and psychological problems, excess weight drastically increases a person's risk of developing a number of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

The risk of developing more than one of these diseases also increases with increasing body weight. Obesity is already responsible for 2-8% of health costs and 10-13% of deaths in different parts of the Region, says WHO. It is also now the 5th leading cause of death worldwide.

European Obesity Day is organised by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) in conjunction with its 32 member associations in 32 countries. As well as events on the day itself, various initiatives will be taking place throughout Europe during the month beforehand.

Other European disease organisations are also involved.

Other major disease organisations, including those related to Cancer, Diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, diet and liver disease will also be taking part to highlight the dangers that overweight and obesity causes to those diseases too.

Last year, EASO published the findings of a survey among 14,000 members of the public in seven European countries, showing that the majority of people underestimate their own weight, misjudge the weight of others around them, and appear to have little knowledge of the consequences.

It also showed that the vast majority of people regard obesity as a problem purely of personal lifestyle, rather than recognising that there are other underlying issues which society needs to address.

"Obesity is a complex and chronic disease with numerous causes, many of which are beyond an individual's control," says EASO President, Professor Hermann Toplak. "The causes can range from genetic and endocrine conditions to environmental factors, such as stress, diet and increasingly sedentary working patterns.

"A healthier lifestyle, including a healthy diet and regular physical activity can help maintain a normal weight. However, obesity is a chronic disease and should be recognised and treated as such. Accepting and supporting people with obesity will help them seek the help and treatment they need," he said.

WHO says that both societies and governments need to act to curb the 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."

Professor Toplak agrees that Obesity has become a symptom of our rapidly changing society. "Individuals are vulnerable to changes in food production, processing and marketing and to changes in physical work and transportation. Many of these changes are linked to obesity so we should look out for and take action on changes in the wider society as well as for individuals," he added.

In line with the theme for European Obesity Day 2016, Action for a Healthier Future, people across all EU member states are being encouraged to participate.

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Further details of how to support European Obesity Day and where to find more information on obesity, and obesity prevention and treatment, are available on the European Obesity Day website: http://www.europeanobesityday.eu which went live today (24 March 2016). Activities can also be followed on Twitter (@EOD2016 and #EOD2016) and on Facebook (EuropeanObesityDay).

European Obesity Day is a campaign platform of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) and is enabled with the support of Medtronic and Novo Nordisk.

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