In this post we highlight World Obesity recommendations for addressing obesity in children and call on Her Majesty’s Government to utilise the recommendations to drive policy addressing childhood obesity forward.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines children’s rights and holds governments accountable to meet children’s basic needs.

The Convention specifically highlights the responsibility from States Parties to take appropriate measures to “combat disease and malnutrition” and “to ensure all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition.”

Global problem

A brief look at the current global landscape shows that member States are not adequately upholding their responsibilities.

Around the world, numbers of childhood obesity are nearly doubling every 10 years: the estimated number of children aged 5-19 years living with obesity has increased from 86 million in 2010 to 158 million in 2020, and projected to reach 254 million in 2030. As it stands, no country is on track to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) targets for obesity by 2025, which was modestly set at “no increase in obesity.”

Global response

Recognising that childhood obesity is a global problem, the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity published a comprehensive framework for action in its 2016 report Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO).

In October 2020, The World Obesity Federation (World Obesity), held a series of virtual meetings with a group of key childhood obesity stakeholders, focused on assessing the implementation of ECHO’s six key areas of action.

Image courtesy of World Health Organisation 2017

The overarching aim of the World Obesity meetings was to identify cross-cutting and shared opportunities, learning and concrete actions to help drive forward policies to address childhood obesity in line with WHO’s ECHO plan.

OEN supports the recommendations for implementing ECHO and enhancing the global response to childhood obesity which World Obesity and participating individuals formulated following these stakeholder meetings. These recommendations are:

  • Establish a monitoring and accountability framework
  • Adopt a life course, holistic approach to health and focus on the key life stages as defined by WHO 
  • Increase levels of political leadership, including strong governance and coordination mechanisms to ensure the establishment of intersectoral and multisectoral action
  • Adopt a multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach to create a healthier environment for all children and their families
  • Implement a ‘whole of government’, cross-department approach to action on obesity, including all relevant ministries
  • Invest in obesity prevention and treatment as a cost-effective strategy to ensure the health of all individuals and ensure the sustainability of the health system
  • Incorporate the rights of children living with obesity into human rights legislation, health care and education systems
  • Ensure interventions and guidelines to address childhood obesity are coherent and comprehensive, and include all environments and the systems that create them
  • Ensure national plans include actions that address the inequalities and stigma faced by children living with obesity
  • Counter racism, social inequality and the barriers to social determinants

You can read the policy briefing Stepping up action on childhood obesity: Barriers, lessons and next steps for implementing the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity’, reporting on these recommendations in full, here.

National response

OEN stands with World Obesity in calling on the Government of the United Kingdom to uphold their responsibilities to children and address childhood obesity in the UK in line with WHO’s ECHO plan. OEN urges the Government to take policy addressing childhood obesity forward guided by the World Obesity recommendations.

This post has been adapted from the World Obesity website.