Governments and policymakers should prioritize obesity mitigation measures during COVID-19 pandemic
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.— In a new paper published by Global Health Action, Researchers from RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, in partnership with the World Obesity Federation, are calling for action and urgent support to people who face obesity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent findings from studies around the globe have revealed that obesity is a significant risk factor for severe impacts from COVID-19, including hospitalization, severe illness, and death.
Globally, studies from countries including China, France, the U.K. and the U.S. have shown that nearly half or more of people who have developed severe or fatal COVID-19 complications were overweight or had obesity. This data helps show that obesity is an independent risk factor associated with a heightened risk of serious or fatal consequences in comparison to non-obese patients.
“We are calling on policymakers and governments around the globe to take urgent action with rapid research, support and guidance for people facing obesity amidst the pandemic,” said Angie Jackson-Morris, PhD, Senior Global Health Specialist at RTI’s Center for Global Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). “Historically, there has been an underinvestment in measures to reduce and prevent obesity and we believe that foundations for effective forward action need to be laid now to reduce the impact of the pandemic.”
In the paper, researchers laid out several recommendations for immediate response including rapid research, guidance for people with obesity on COVID-19 protection, and the prioritization of ensuring better availability of healthier food.
“Enforced lockdowns may have exacerbated the ‘root’ factors that contribute to obesity, such as poorer access to healthy food and a reduction in physical activity – the effects of which are magnified among people on lower incomes,” said Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation. “Our hope is that the priorities we’ve set, if acted upon by global governments, could lead to a reduction in severe COVID-19 cases and even a reduction in mortality.”
The researchers also outlined measures for future resilience against obesity, including governments giving greater priority to the issue in plans and budgets, as well as development funders stepping up to recognize the importance of addressing obesity for future pandemics.
Globally, obesity has tripled in the past 50 years and in 2016, it was estimated that nearly two billion adults were overweight. The issue spans across all regions and income groups, with nearly two-thirds of people with obesity living in low-and-middle-income countries. Obesity is a risk factor for several NCDs including cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.
To learn more about RTI’s Center for NCDs, visit: https://www.rti.org/centers/rti-center-global-noncommunicable-diseases
To learn more about the World Obesity Federation, visit: https://www.worldobesity.org/
About World Obesity Federation
World Obesity Federation represents professional members of the scientific, medical and research communities from over 50 regional and national obesity associations. Through our membership we create a global community of organisations dedicated to solving the problems of obesity.
About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.