Addressing obesity – University of Copenhagen

Addressing obesity

The importance of addressing obesity - a worldwide societal and individual challenge

Overweight and obesity is a rapidly growing public health challenge, and being the fifth leading risk for global death, it is becoming one of the main health problems in the world with high societal and individual costs. Further, it is the gateway to co-morbidities and psychosocial adverse conditions affecting quality of life, healthcare costs and efficiency of the workforce.

We know that overweight and obesity is a frequent, serious and complex challenge that affects both society and the individual (Nature Outlook: Obesity, Vol. 508 No. 7496). Although the extent and consequences of obesity is well known, little is known about the interplay, the causes and the cures of obesity (Scully, 2014).

As an example, we know that genes, environment, lifestyle and the social setting influence the occurrence of obesity, but little is known about the relative importance and the interplay between these factors (Rutter, 2011).

Furthermore, knowledge on diet composition in relation to weight management is extensive, but the role of physical activity patterns is less clear (Besson et. al., 2009).

Gastric bypass surgery is currently the only truly effective long-term treatment of severe obesity, but it is costly, invasive and associated with side effects and large variations in response.

Therefore, we need to know:

  • how different different factors influence each other
  • how to improve the efficiency of efforts for governing obesity
  • how to optimize societal and individual interventions
  • how to avoid unintended and negative effects such as increased mortality, counterproductive actions and stigmatization
  • how the discourse and the perception of obesity supports or prevent adoption of recommended lifestyles
  • how the responsibility of obesity is balanced between society and the individual