MEPs call on Commission to tackle obesity epidemic

Obesity costs European member states an estimated €70 billion a year in healthcare and lost productivity

MEP Alfred Sant
MEP Alfred Sant

A number of members of European Parliament, led by MEP Alfred Sant, have sent a written declaration calling on the European Commission and Council to work for a Europe-wide recognition of obesity as a chronic disease.

MEPs are currently leading a major new initiative to tackle Europe’s rising obesity epidemic, costing governments more than €70 billion a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity, and the declaration also highlights the prediction that by 2030 over 50 % of Europeans will be obese., with numbers exceeding 90%  in some populations.

“Obesity is already estimated to cost the EU €70 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity, and the total burden is likely to be even higher, as obesity causes many other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers,” Sant said, speaking at a healthy breakfast event for MEPs at the European Parliament, to launch the declaration.

“Better prevention and treatment of obesity will provide tangible healthcare system savings, as well as reducing the suffering of the millions affected,” he added.

Sant added that obesity is complex and is caused by many different factors, including medical, cultural and socioeconomic dynamics among others.

“This being the case, there is an urgent need to recognise obesity as a disease in order to ensure better mobilisation of resources when it comes to the prevention, treatment and care of the disease,” he said.

Among other speakers at the event were Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the EU, Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, President Elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), and Ellen Govers from the European Federation of the Association of Dieticians.

The World Health Organization says that both societies and governments need to act to curb the growing obesity epidemic and that national policies should encourage and provide opportunities for greater physical activity, as well as 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,” it adds.

The MEPs who have jointly initiated the Written Declaration with Santare Enrico Gasbarra (S&D), Marc Tarabella (S&D), Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD), PatricijaŠulin(PPE), Giovanni La Via (PPE), TomášZdechovský (PPE), Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE), Edward Czesak (ECR), and ÁngelaVallina (GUE/NGL).

The Healthy Breakfast event was held in conjunction with The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) as one of the initiatives held in the run up to European Obesity Day, which takes place on 21 May.

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