Half of EU citizens are overweight Rising, obesity rings alarm bells in Brussels

May 18, 2013 | By More

May 18, AP – For decades, EU member states have seen obesity levels rise. The UN and World Health Organization (WHO) are now sounding the alarm. Obesity, their recent report says, is becoming an epidemic.

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Half of EU citizens are overweight. Among these people, serious obesity is on the rise. It’s a heavy and expensive burden for national health care systems – and one the EU Commission hopes to stop.

Hungary leads the most recent European statistics, followed closely by Great Britain, Ireland and Malta. In these countries, roughly every fourth citizen is seriously overweight. Throughout Europe, obesity is putting huge strains on national health care systems. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers are further exacerbated by obesity.

Solutions from Brussels?

The EU Commission sees a need for action. “Even if health care policy falls under the jurisdiction of individual member states, the EU Commission, together with EU member states, would like to fight obesity,” said Reinhard Hönighaus, spokesperson for the German delegation of the European Commission, in an interview with DW.

The EU Commission already provides the financial means for EU-wide projects that encourage healthy eating, said Hönighaus. Well-known projects include the distribution of fruit and milk to schools as well as the annual “European Obesity Day” on the third Saturday of every May. Numerous events take place on that day, each aiming to place obesity in the public spotlight.

For the EU Commission, children are the target audience. “They’re more receptive to activities and information on healthy eating,” said Hönighaus. “That leads to a lasting change in eating habits.”

A social question

But for Stefanie Gerlach, the spokesperson for the German Obesity Society (DAG), current measures fall short.

“Explanations and information campaigns alone aren’t enough in areas hit by obesity,” she told DW.

In Germany, rising levels of obesity in adults makes it clear, Gerlach believes, that other approaches are necessary. When it’s always easier to find unhealthy nutrition, she says, unhealthy behaviors are picked up rather quickly. “A BMI of over 30 means you’re dealing with a disease requiring treatment.”

Associated press coordinator for human rights observers – Norberto Lluch reports from Europe.

 

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Category: Health and Fitness

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