The Obesity Policy Engagement Network seeks to engage policy and decisionmakers to deliver governmental action in the form of strategies, policies and roadmaps that effectively address obesity as an NCD and deliver efficient action that positively impact those already living with the disease. The global network provides tools and best practice-sharing opportunities to support members in their efforts to deliver national action towards the following goals.
These core focus areas have been developed in consultation with OPEN partners.
SECURE PRIORITISATION OF OBESITY AS A NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASE (NCD)
Obtain governmental and health system inclusion of obesity as a non-communicable disease (NCD) in its own right, in expanded NCD policy frameworks to secure the delivery of national plans which enable the early diagnosis, treatment and long-term management of obesity
The World Health Organisation classified obesity as a disease in 1948 and updated its definition to define it as a chronic disease in 2021. While scientific evidence confirms obesity is a chronic relapsing disease, to date the majority of national strategies, roadmaps and policy frameworks focus on obesity as a lifestyle disease or a risk factor for other non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. As a result, most NCD frameworks do not include or address obesity as an NCD.
To ensure obesity is included and afforded the same level of urgency and resources as other non-communicable diseases, national stakeholders must advocate for the inclusion and prioritisation of obesity as a chronic disease within existing national NCD strategies, roadmaps and policy frameworks.
BUILD HEALTH LITERACY
Build general public and political awareness of the complexities of obesity along the life course to combat discrimination and enable more informed decision-making
Building public and political awareness of the complexities of obesity along the life course is key to combat discrimination and misinformation and enable more informed decision-making on how to overcome current challenges and ensure people living with obesity have the support needed to manage their disease.
There is a need to ensure the definition of obesity being a ‘chronic relapsing disease which in turns acts as a gateway to a range of other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer1’ is understood and accepted by the general public, policymakers and decision- makers in order to inform meaningful and scientifically accurate interventions for people living with obesity.
OPTIMISE PREVENTION STRATEGIES
Ensure governments prioritize the evidence generation and resources required to deliver action which will effectively help to prevent or reduce key risk factors for obesity
To date, preventative efforts to address the rising number of people living with obesity worldwide have largely focussed on healthy choices and weight gain prevention strategies, rather than addressing obesity as a chronic relapsing disease.
More evidence is needed so that prevention efforts can be better informed and tailored to the different root causes and disease profiles of obesity. In tandem with this, more frequent and sophisticated monitoring of indicators of obesity in patients should be used for the effective and targeted prevention of progression and relapse of obesity on an individual level.
Ensure people living with or at risk of obesity have access to holistic support and healthcare services along their life course which is free from bias
There are many barriers to effective obesity management including poor knowledge among healthcare professionals (HCPs), poor patient-HCP communication, limited adoption of screening, diagnosis tools and treatment options, as well as insufficient reimbursement for obesity management. Many people living with obesity experience stigma within healthcare settings, or services which are ill-equipped to accommodate their needs.
Due to the complexity of obesity and its drivers, obesity care must be multi-disciplinary and holistic, it must also be free from bias, stigma and discrimination. To improve outcomes, obesity services must be delivered according to evidence and accommodate the different clinical, physical and psychological needs of people living with obesity.
1 European Commission, Knowledge for Policy, Available: https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/health-promotion-knowledge-gateway/obesity_en