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WHO recognition of the global obesity epidemic

Abstract

The recognition of obesity as a disease was in theory established in 1948 by WHO's (World Health Organization) taking on the International Classification of Diseases but the early highlighting of the potential public health problem in the United States and the United Kingdom 35 years ago was considered irrelevant elsewhere. The medical profession disregarded obesity as important despite the new evidence and WHO data set out in the 1980s. Only in 1995 did WHO find greater problems of overweight than underweight in many developing countries but it required the first special obesity consultation in 1997 and particularly the Millennium burden of disease analyses to suddenly highlight its crucial role in the current unmanageable and escalating medical costs globally. Governments now recognize the overwhelming industrial developments that guarantee an escalating epidemic but neither they nor WHO know how to engage in changing the societal framework to promote routine spontaneous physical activity and a transformation of the food system so that low energy-density food of high nutrient quality becomes the norm.

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Correspondence to W P T James.

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James, W. WHO recognition of the global obesity epidemic. Int J Obes 32, S120–S126 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.247

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2008.247

Keywords

  • obesity
  • anthropometry
  • disease burden

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