Reading Time: 8 minutes
Listen to this article
World obesity day

World Obesity Day: An Urgent Call for Global Action


In a world where waistlines are expanding and health risks are mounting, World Obesity Day serves as a poignant reminder of the pressing need for collaborative action to address one of the most significant global public health challenges of our time.

Obesity has emerged as a global epidemic, with profound implications for individual health, healthcare systems, and societal well-being. The consequences of obesity are far-reaching, extending beyond physical health to encompass economic, social, and psychological well-being. While the prevalence of obesity may seem daunting, World Obesity Day serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring individuals to take charge of their health and make positive lifestyle changes.

In this article, we delve into the complexities of the obesity epidemic, examine its far-reaching impacts, and explore strategies for prevention and intervention.

What is World Obesity Day?

Every year on March 4, World Obesity Day is observed with the goal of galvanizing a global action to address and combat the obesity epidemic through raising awareness, promoting prevention, advocating for policy reforms, and mobilizing action.

World Obesity Day is convened by the World Obesity Federation in collaboration with its global members. [1]

As World Obesity Day approaches in 2024, the urgency to address the multifaceted challenges posed by this global health crisis has never been more pronounced. With obesity rates continuing to climb worldwide, the need for concerted action across sectors has become increasingly evident.

What is the significance of World Obesity Day?

Since its inception in 2015, World Obesity Day has aimed to promote practical strategies and solutions to assist individuals in attaining and maintaining a healthy weight, seeking adequate treatment, and reversing the obesity epidemic.

Specifically, the goals and objectives of World Obesity Day include:

  • Raising awareness: World Obesity Day aims to increase public understanding of the prevalence, causes, and far-reaching implications of obesity.
  • Promoting prevention: Prevention is a key focus of World Obesity Day. The day encourages individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, including balanced diets, regular physical activity, and positive behaviour changes, to prevent obesity and reduce the risk of associated health complications.
  • Fostering a supportive environment: For those already living with obesity, World Obesity Day advocates for access to effective treatment and support services such as medical treatment, behavioural therapy, nutritional counselling, and community-based programmes.
  • Advocating for policy reforms: World Obesity Day serves as a platform to advocate for policy changes that address the environmental, social, and economic factors contributing to the obesity epidemic.
  • Mobilising action: By bringing together individuals, communities, policymakers, healthcare professionals, and organisations, World Obesity Day mobilises collective action to address the root causes of obesity and implement evidence-based solutions. [2]

Understanding the Scope of the Problem

Obesity, defined as excessive fat accumulation that poses a risk to health, is a complex condition influenced by a myriad of factors, including genetic, dietary, environmental, social, and behavioural determinants. Body mass index (BMI) is a basic weight-for-height metric used to categorise humans as overweight or obese. It is calculated as a person’s weight in kilogrammes divided by the square of his height in metres (kg/m2).

The WHO defines obesity and overweight in adults as follows:

  • A BMI of more than or equal to 25 is considered overweight.
  • A BMI of more than or equal to 30 is considered obese.

Age must be taken into consideration when defining overweight and obesity in children.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975 and climbed about fivefold in children and adolescents, impacting people of all ages and socioeconomic classes in both developed and developing nations.

Obesity is a substantial risk factor for a variety of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain malignancies, hypertension, stroke, and mental health disorders, owing to weight stigma. Obesity has far-reaching societal and economic ramifications that extend beyond individual health. Additionally, it imposes a tremendous burden on healthcare systems, with obesity-related healthcare costs soaring into the billions annually. [3, 4]

Key facts about the global burden of obesity

Here are some recent estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) about obesity and underweight:

  • In 2016, the number of overweight adults (18 years of age and older) exceeded 1.9 billion. Over 650 million adult individuals out of them were obese.
  • In 2016, ages 18 and over accounted for 39% of overweight adults (39% of males and 40% of women).
  • In 2016, 13% of adult people worldwide—11% of men and 15% of women—were obese.
  • In 2019, approximately 38.2 million children under the age of five were thought to be overweight or obese.
  • Previously viewed as an issue exclusive to high-income nations, overweight and obesity are increasingly becoming more prevalent in low- and middle-income nations, especially in urban areas.
  • In 2019, Asia was home to over half of the world’s overweight or obese children under the age of five.
  • Globally, obesity and overweight are associated with a higher mortality toll than underweight. [3]

Exploring the Drivers of Obesity

An energy imbalance between calories ingested and calories burned is the primary cause of obesity and overweight. The rise in obesity can be attributed to a confluence of factors, including changes in dietary patterns, sedentary lifestyles, urbanisation, socioeconomic disparities, and the pervasive influence of food marketing. The prevalence of highly processed, calorie-dense foods and beverages, coupled with decreased physical activity levels, has fueled the obesity epidemic.

Moreover, environmental factors such as the built environment, food accessibility, and social norms play a critical role in shaping individual behaviours and choices related to diet and physical activity. Addressing these underlying determinants requires a comprehensive, multisectoral approach that goes beyond individual behaviour change to encompass policy interventions, environmental modifications, and social reforms. [3]

Understanding the Impact of Obesity

Individuals who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to serious chronic illnesses and health conditions than people who maintain a healthy weight. These consist of:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease, mainly coronary artery disease and stroke
  • Muck skeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis (a highly incapacitating degenerative joint condition)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Mental health disorders such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses
  • Certain cancers, such as endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon cancer [5]

A rise in BMI is associated with an increased risk of several noncommunicable illnesses. Obese children not only have a higher risk of adult obesity, premature death, and disability, but they also have difficulty breathing, a higher risk of fractures, hypertension, early indicators of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and psychological effects. [3]

The Heavy Social and Economic Burden of Obesity

Obesity is a global crisis with far-reaching social and economic implications. To put this into context, let’s understand the economic burden of obesity on individuals, their families, and society. The economic implications include:


  • Reduced life expectancy: Obesity and related chronic disorders, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, shorten life expectancy in OECD nations by an average of 2.7 years.
  • Healthcare costs: Over the next thirty years, OECD nations will spend around 8.4% of their health expenditure on addressing the effects of obesity.
  • Educational outcomes: Obesity adversely impacts educational outcomes. Children who maintain a healthy weight are 13% more likely to report high academic performance. Thus, reducing obesity can lead to higher educational outcomes and improved productivity.
  • Effect on workforce: Reduced life expectancy brought on by obesity directly impacts the workforce by reducing workers’ productivity.
  • Impact on GDP: Overweight has a macroeconomic impact on the nation’s overall prosperity and growth by lowering GDP. [6]

Strategies for Prevention and Intervention

Overweight and obesity, as well as their associated noncommunicable illnesses, are mostly avoidable. Supportive settings and communities play an important role in molding people’s choices by making healthier diets and regular physical activity the most accessible, available, and cheap options, thereby reducing overweight and obesity.


Some tips for maintaining a healthy weight are as follows:


  • Reduce “bad” fat consumption and increase “good” fat intake: Not all fat is harmful, despite what the low-fat diet craze of the 1990s claimed. According to several studies, consuming beneficial dietary fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, has been linked to lower cholesterol and a lower risk of obesity. [3,7]
  • Limit energy intake from processed and sugary food: A 2016 study shows that an increased risk of obesity is associated with energy consumption from processed and sugary foods. Excessive fat, salt, and sugar content in many processed meals can lead to overindulgence. [3, 8]
  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables: Consuming more fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains, and nuts, can lower the risk of overeating and keep calorie levels stable. [3]
  • Consume lots of dietary fibre: Research indicates that dietary fibre contributes to weight maintenance. [9]
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Incorporation of regular physical activity (60 minutes daily for kids and 150 minutes weekly for adults) in schedule helps reduce the risk of obesity. [3]
  • Focus on lowering stress levels: A 2012 study indicates that stress could set off a neurological reaction in the brain that alters eating habits and increases cravings for high-calorie meals. Increased intake of high-calorie food may increase the risk of developing obesity. [10]


As we mark World Obesity Day in 2024, it is imperative that we recommit ourselves to the fight against obesity with renewed vigour, urgency, compassion, and solidarity. By adopting a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity and empowers individuals, communities, and societies to make healthier choices, we can mitigate the impact of this global epidemic and build a healthier, more equitable future for all.

Author: Dr. Anjali Singh

BDS [KGMC, Lucknow]

1 thought on “World Obesity Day: An Urgent Call for Global Action”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top