The Obesity Epidemic – The Rising Prevalence of Obesity
Obesity is rising in prevalence around the world to such an extent that it is now classified as an obesity epidemic. Obesity is associated with many life-threatening conditions that reduce a person’s quality of life and greatly impact on healthcare costs. Measures to stem the obesity epidemic have been implemented over the last decade or so, but the obesity epidemic continues to rise, nonetheless.
The Obesity Epidemic
The prevalence of obesity is rising around the world. Obesity not only affects first-world countries but is also becoming more common in developing countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over one billion people are overweight and of these, around a third are considered obese. As such, obesity is now classified as an epidemic.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is a chronic condition that is defined by having an accumulation of excess body fat. It is defined by the WHO as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) that is 30kg/m2 or greater.
The main cause of the increased prevalence of obesity is simply put down to an increased consumption of energy-rich foods, alongside a reduction of exercise. In developing countries, such as China and other Asian countries, a move towards eating more Westernised food is a major reason for the rising prevalence of obesity in these regions.
The Obesity Epidemic and Increased Obesity-Related Conditions
The obesity epidemic is becoming an increasing health problem due to the many obesity-related conditions that may arise as a result. Obesity increases a person’s risk for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even osteoarthritis. Such obesity-related conditions are chronic conditions, which often lead to a reduction in a person’s lifestyle. Many of these conditions are life-threatening, and therefore significantly increase the obese person’s risk of dying prematurely.
The Obesity Epidemic and Effect on Healthcare Costs
Obesity-related conditions often require management with pharmacological drug treatments, with hospitalization required at times, depending on the severity of the disease. As such, the obesity epidemic is resulting in a huge economic impact on healthcare providers and society as a whole, as the prevalence of these obesity-related conditions continues to rise. A study conducted in the USA has estimated that if the obesity epidemic continues to rise at the current rate, obesity-related health care costs will more than double to reach $344 billion by 2018.
Tackling the Obesity Epidemic
Many governments have begun to tackle the issue over the last decade or so, in order to help stem the increasing prevalence of obesity. They have initiated education and awareness campaigns in order to teach society about the benefits of healthy eating and also the benefits of exercising. Countries, such as the UK, have brought such programmes into schools, teaching children about nutrition and the benefits of being healthy. These education programmes alongside an overhaul of canteen food menus were undertaken in order to help stem the rising prevalence of childhood obesity.
Even though measures to help stem the obesity epidemic have been underway in many countries for some time now, the prevalence of obesity continues to rise around the globe. Governments and health organizations need to continue to battle this problem and further educate society about the benefits of being healthy and about the dangers of obesity before this deadly disease actually does become the number one leading cause of preventable deaths in many regions.