OPEN EU launched: EU experts join forces to drive EU-level change on obesity emergency

Brussels, 4th March 2020: A new manifesto calling for a different EU-level approach to reduce the prevalence and impact of obesity in the European Union (EU) will be launched today by newly-formed coalition the Obesity Policy Engagement Network (OPEN)-EU, led by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).

In Europe obesity prevalence has tripled since 1980[i]. Overweight reduces the gross domestic product by 3.3%. If obesity incidence continues at the current rate, from 2020 to 2050 OECD countries are estimated to spend 8.4 % of their health budget on treating the consequences of obesity and overweight[ii]. Furthermore, there are 236 disorders associated with obesity[iii], and it is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers[iv].

To address the obesity crisis, OPEN-EU, a coalition of key EU experts, policy and decision makers, outlines in its manifesto, the priority actions needed to improve the treatment and management of obesity. These actions* are based on four critical focus areas calling for:

  • Recognition that obesity is a chronic relapsing disease that requires shared responsibility
  • Allocation of healthcare resources to secure funding for care
  • Improved education for relevant professions, to support more effective, informed care
  • Access to specialist, multidisciplinary care for people with obesity

MEP Alfred Sant said: “Current estimates show that in Europe obesity costs us around €70 billion annually in health care and lost productivity. The total real burden is surely higher, as obesity causes many other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. It is quite clear that a holistic and systemic approach needs to be adopted if we are to start sustainably stemming the tide of this epidemic.

“Seen from Brussels, the overall challenge needs to be wrapped up in the question: how shall we assist the different regional and national authorities to combat the disease by creating an EU level strategy?”

Euan Woodward, Executive Director of EASO, a founding member of OPEN, said: “Over the past decade, scientific and medical communities – as well as international organisations like the World Health Organization – have increasingly recognised obesity as a multifactorial chronic disease requiring long-term management. However, this understanding has not yet informed policy making. Indeed, the misconception that obesity is a lifestyle choice rather than a disease with multiple complex causes is one of the biggest barriers to addressing obesity.

“The success of OPEN relies on multi-disciplinary partnership. No one voice has the answer to the complex problems of obesity and overweight. OPEN EU will facilitate dialogue between patient representatives, public health professionals, policymakers, civil society and industry to ensure all voices are heard.”

*The EU Obesity Policy Engagement Network Call to Action: Changing The Status Quo in Obesity


Notes to editors

About OPEN and OPEN-EU

OPEN is a sustained global initiative aiming to achieve national support for improved obesity care.

OPEN is a network for national coalitions of public health, policy, patient representatives and other thought leaders in the field of obesity with representation in over 15 countries including the UK, Italy, Germany and Spain.

OPEN seeks to provide national policy advocates with the opportunity to share diverse perspectives on a common challenge, identify solutions and collaborate to address the current barriers and challenges to effective obesity care.

Through the global network, members obtain insights and tangible tools on how to put in place effective national obesity strategies which deliver workable, effective solutions that successfully address the obesity challenge.

OPEN-EU is a new initiative within OPEN, which seeks to ensure that all relevant European institutional strategies and policies integrate measures that effectively help support people living with obesity. It is a coalition of key EU experts, policy and decision makers covering a wide range of areas including disability, urban planning, sports, healthcare, industry and public health amongst others.

About Word Obesity Day

World Obesity Day 2020 will be held on Wednesday, March 4. It brings together healthcare, patient and political communities who are keen to raise awareness of obesity and the many other diseases on which it impacts.

In Europe, World Obesity Day 2020 is being supported by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO). Other leading obesity organisations taking part include the World Obesity Federation (WOF), the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), The Obesity Society (TOS), Obesity Canada, the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), and the European Coalition for People living with Obesity (ECPO).

About obesity

Obesity causes and effects

Development of and progression of obesity is influenced by a number of factors including genetics, nutrition, medication, behaviour, socio-economics, and physiological factors. [v], [vi], [vii], [viii]

Obesity and overweight are responsible for 10-13% of deaths in different parts of Europe. [ix] Forty-four percent of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% – 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity. [x]

Cost of obesity

In 2014, the healthcare cost associated with overweight and obesity in Europe was €120.6 billion. This is projected to rise by 63% to €197 billion by 2025. [xi] Obesity accounts for 2-8% of health costs in different parts of Europe. [xii] From 2020-2050, it is estimated that OECD countries will spend 8.4% of their health budget on obesity and related diseases. [xiii] Overweight reduces the gross domestic product by 3.3% in OECD countries. [xiv] Overweight effectively reduces the workforce by 28 million people per year due to reduced employment. [xv]

[i] E. Pineda at al. 2018. Obesity Facts: 11: 360-371

[ii] OECD. 2019. OECD Health Policy Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/67450d67-en.

[iii] Yuen, M.M., et al. (n.d.). A systematic review and evaluation of current evidence reveals 236 obesity-associated disorders. Massachusetts General Hospital & George Washington University. [Poster presentation]

[iv] Frühbeck G, et al. 2013. Obesity Facts 6,2: 117-20

[v] Guyenet, S.J. et al. 2012. J Clin Endocrinol Metab; 97:745–55

[vi] Badman, M.K. et al. 2015 Science; 307: 1909–14.

[vii] Tanaka, T. et al. 2013. Am J Clin Nutr; 97: 1395–402.

[viii] Woods, S.C. et al. 2002. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord; 26: S8–10

[ix] World Health Organization. 2020. Obesity. [Online] Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/obesity/obesity  [Accessed January 2020]

[x] Ritchie, H. et al. 2020. Obesity. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/obesity [Accessed March 2020]

[xi] World Obesity Federation. 2017. World Obesity Day: Our data. Available at https://www.obesityday.worldobesity.org/ourdata2017

[xii] World Health Organization. 2020. Obesity. [Online] Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/obesity/

obesity [Accessed January 2020]

[xiii] OECD, The Heavy Burden of Obesity, 2019

[xiv] OECD, The Heavy Burden of Obesity, 2019

[xv] OECD, The Heavy Burden of Obesity, 2019