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Taboo issue obesity

Excess weight is one of the major risk factors for developing a variety of diseases, a problem which has reached epidemic proportions globally. Since 1980, the number of adults who are either overweight or obese has increased to a record breaking 1.9 billion in 2014. Since 2015, World Obesity Day, which is held annually on October 11th, aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the many challenges associated with obesity, as well as public awareness of the issue. This year, the campaign's motto is “treat obesity now and avoid the consequences later”. Based on last year's main theme, which focused on obesity in children and adolescents, this year will promote preventive measures and early treatment options.

On World Obesity Day, seca conducted a representative survey on excess weight in Germany. It showed that 42% of respondents had gained weight over the last five years. In addition, the survey uncovered another issue: 45% of all interviewed patients reported that their doctor had never measured their weight. Even among participants who were obese, 60% stated that their doctor did not address their weight. Prevention and early treatment are effective measures to avoid obesity in the long-term and also improve quality of life, as well as reduce health costs. The survey revealed that in many places doctors failed the first steps for an early diagnosis. In addition to increasing financial stress and time pressure within patient care, legislative hurdles are also why doctors do not regularly check their patients' weight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity counts as a chronic disease and is also listed in the 10th edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). However, many countries do not recognized it as such, which means that funding for treatment is not always available.

For these reasons, physicians often rely on their patients to tell them about their issues, often causing the initial stages of obesity or large weight fluctuations to go unnoticed. In addition, being overweight or obese is regarded as a sensitive topic, which many patients opt to ignore and, therefore, is rarely addressed by doctors themselves. The simplest action of stepping onto the scale can make an important contribution in the fight against obesity, and should therefore be mandatory for any doctor's visit. 

Already today, excessive weight endangers the health of billions of people and leads to a global debt of more than two trillion dollars each year. Should the current trend continue, half of the world's population will be overweight by 2030. To prevent this, decisive measures must be taken today. In addition to destigmatizing the disease and raising public awareness, it is necessary for the health care and legislative politics to provide further support. Following the example of the US, Canada and Portugal, other countries should recognize obesity as a disease and provide nationwide access to preventive measures, as well as conservative and surgical therapies to stop the epidemic.

Image 1  © “triocean” / Fotolia.com

Image 2  © “Photographee.eu” / Fotolia.com

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