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Obesity in Italy

While the prevalence of obesity in Italy is lower than in most other countries at the global level1, it still has significant consequences.

Italians live on average 2.7 years less due to overweight6. Overweight accounts for 9% of health expenditure, which is above the European average.4 Labour market outputs are lower due to overweight by the equivalent of 571,000 full time workers per year.4 Combined, this means that overweight reduces Italy’s GDP by 2.8%.4 To cover these costs, each Italian pays an additional €289 in taxes per year.4

Although obesity is recognized as a disease at the parliamentary level, bariatric surgery is the only reimbursed treatment and there are insufficient numbers of obesity centres to effectively support people living with obesity.

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About OPEN Italy

OPEN Italy is a Think Tank network of obesity experts, policy advocates, parliamentary bodies, scientific societies and patient organizations with multidisciplinary perspectives, formed in order to discuss obesity solutions.

OPEN Italy works in partnership with the Parliamentary Intergroup on Obesity and Diabetes.

OPEN Italy aims to implement a clinical and holistic approach to protect the rights of people living with obesity, putting patients at the centre of all elements of obesity-related healthcare. This includes, improving quality of life and care, fighting weight stigma, and recognising obesity as a disease, requiring commitment and action from political and healthcare decision-makers.

Key Achievements

On 13 November 2019, the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament voted unanimously to approve a motion that recognises obesity as a chronic disease asking the Government to implement specific actions to promote and improve obesity prevention and management.

This was the result of a sustained collaboration between the Obesity and Diabetes parliamentary multi-party working group and OPEN Italy.

This motion represents a very important step in the recognition of obesity as a disease in Italy, and we look forward to the actions that our National Government and the Italian regions will undertake in the future toward practical implementation of the motion, and its translation in the day-to-day activity of our National Health Service.

The parliamentary motion was inspired by the Italian Charter of Human Rights for People Living with Obesity (also developed by OPEN), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Italian Constitution; the European Charter of Patients’ Rights; the Action-Io Study; the roadmap developed by OPEN Italy and the recommendations of the World Obesity Federation for the fight against stigma and discrimination.

The outcome of the Italian Parliament decision was 458/458 in favour of the motion, and the text was unanimously adopted by the Deputies present and the Minister of Health.

Among the various commitments there is a national plan to harmonise the activities in the field of prevention and the fight against obesity; full access to diagnostic procedures for comorbidities, dietary treatments, and, in the most serious cases, access to second-level centres to evaluate psychological, pharmacological and surgical approaches; guidelines concerning the “first 1,000 days of life” of the child and programs for the prevention of childhood obesity.

Priorities in 2020 and beyond

  • PROMOTE OPEN Italy as an Italian network on obesity – solid, inclusive and efficient – characterized by an interdisciplinary approach, within which the different actors of the system can face the barriers, and are able to convey a shared message through common outputs;
  • ENGAGE as widely as possible to activate a successful path of public and private partnership with diverse institutions including: city administrations, scientific societies, patient and citizenship associations, universities, research centers hospitals, specialist centers, general medicine physicians, and key voices from industry, sports, and the media
  • DEVELOP official data on obesity at the economic, political, social and epidemiological level and publish an Italian Obesity Barometer Report
  • PROMOTE awareness and prevention campaigns in cities, schools and workplaces
  • DEVELOP a core curriculum on obesity for healthcare professionals
  • PROTECT and ENSURE the rights of people living with obesity
  • ENCOURAGE parliamentary and government debates on obesity
  • ESTABLISH Obesity in the Ministry of Health essential levels of Healthcare (LEA)
  • REALIZE an Urban Obesity Declaration

References

1 OECD. Obesity Update. 2017. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf [Accessed: May 2020].

2 NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Lancet. 2016;387(10026):1377–1396.

3 World Obesity Federation. World Obesity Day. Our data. World Obesity Federation 2017. https://www.obesityday.worldobesity.org/ourdata2017 * Adults defined as ≥ 20 years old

4 OECD (2014). Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat Key Facts – Italy, Update 2014 [Online]. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/italy/Obesity-Update-2014-ITALY.pdf [Accessed: May 2020].

5 Italian Obesity Barometer Report. 2020. Obesity Monitor. Available at: https://www.diabete.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/OBESITY-BAROMETER-REPORT-4-4-2019-LOW.pdf. [Accessed: May 2020].

6 OECD. The Heavy Burden of Obesity. The Economics of Prevention: Italy. 2019. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/italy/Heavy-burden-of-obesity-Media-country-note-ITALY.pdf [Accessed: May 2020].