Nearly 30% of the global population is overweight or obese, with almost half of the world’s adult population predicted to be overweight or obese by 2030. Obesity is estimated to comprise between 2–7% of healthcare spending in developed countries, not including the cost of treating associated diseases (which may increase the cost toll to up to 20%); the global economic impact of obesity is close to $2 trillion annually. In a new McKinsey Global Institute discussion paper, obesity interventions from around the world are evaluated for evidence of overall impact in reducing the burden of health associated with this disease. The findings include:
A single intervention is likely to only have a small impact at the aggregate level; an ambitious, comprehensive, and sustained portfolio of initiatives from many sources that include governments, retailers, employers, and healthcare providers are needed to support broad behavioral change.
Nearly all interventions reviewed were highly cost-effective, in which the healthcare costs and productivity savings outweighed the direct investment required to deliver the intervention.
Education and encouraging personal responsibility are not enough on their own as an obesity intervention. Changes to the environmental and societal norms are also needed to normalize healthy behavior; examples include reducing portion sizes of packaged foods and fast food, changing marketing practices, and changing physical activity curricula in schools.
Commitment from governments, employers, educators, retailers, restaurants, and food and beverage manufacturers are necessary, as are a combination of top-down corporate and government interventions and bottom-up community-based ones. Engagement from all relevant societal sectors is needed and as many interventions as possible must be delivered to have significant impact.
The authors of the report concede that this analysis is a mere starting point, as more comprehensive evidence on obesity interventions worldwide is assessed.
Obesity is a critical global issue that requires a comprehensive, international intervention strategy.