Cost of Obesity on global economy: $2 trillion

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You read that right, obesity is hurting the global economy! 

Obese man
Obesity is hurting the global economy.

An alarming number of 2.1 billion people or let us say 30% of the global population is either overweight or obese. And that is no good news! Apart from the fact that so many people are actually “not healthy”, the obese population is actually hurting the global economy.

And how, you might ask?

The economic toll is so steep that it effects at least 2.8% of the world economic output. If statistics do not ring a bell, then what if we say it is the same damage that smoking or armed conflicts result in. We are already nose deep in these fatty waters and if steps are not taken immediately, almost half of the world’s adult population is projected to be in the “overweight or obese” category in the next 15 years.

It is anybody’s guess that personal, social and economic costs will be pushed even higher in such a scenario.  McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), has further reported in its latest discussion paper “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis”, that a list of interventions are being deployed globally to asses the cost-effectiveness and the impact on the obese world.

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“Efforts to address obesity have been piecemeal up till now. Yet obesity is a systemic issue, born of many interlocking factors, and only a systemic response will do. MGI’s aim, in publishing this research, is to build on existing analysis of the problem to explore the shape of a solution. This report is just the start and we hope it prompts further debate,”said Richard Dobbs, Director of MGI.

It is essential that global efforts are put into place to fight this international crisis, identify key barriers to implementation and lay more focus on the solutions rather than on the problem.

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The report also lists sustained initiatives is required to be taken by a coalition of partners in terms of industry, government, healthcare systems and NGOs. It would be more important to rely less on individual responsibility and more on environmental changes to make this effort a success.

Many social activists and intellectuals have already initiated campaigns urging governments, employers, educators, retailers, restaurants and food and drink manufacturers to take the issue of obesity seriously.

MGI claims to have developed a perspective on what it will take to begin to reverse rising obesity in a developed market  with the UK as its first case study. Reports are expected for China and Mexico as well to study the emerging markets.

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Examples of interventions catalogued include:

• Portion control in fast food packaged goods, and food service

• Investing in parental education

• Reformulating fast food and processed foods

• Reconfiguring food and drink promotions

• Introducing healthy meals in schools and workplaces

• Changing the school curriculum to include more physical exercise

• Encouraging more physical activities by introducing bicycle lanes.

Find a full copy of the report on on

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