Overweight and obesity are among the most pressing public health issues of our time. As prevalence continue to rise worldwide, much work is to be done on understanding the full range of consequences this has for individuals, families, health systems and economies.

Along with health implications, overweight and obesity undoubtedly have economic implications too. The economic impact of overweight and obesity include 'direct costs' such as the cost of medical treatment and 'indirect costs' such as presenteeism.

To date, much of what we know about the economic impact of overweight and obesity come from studies in developed countries, yet we know that the challenges we face are global and far-reaching. Much of the modelled estimates of the economic impact of overweight and obesity have been generated from varying methodology and so are not directly comparable across studies and countries.

To address this, World Obesity and Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International have joined forces to improve the quality, comparability and communicability of the economic evidence on the impact of overweight and obesity.

This work started in September 2019 and since then we have been working to develop, refine and test a sound methodology that can be used to calculate the current and projected economic impact of overweight and obesity around the world. This year we have committed to publishing and releasing findings for 8 pilot countries: Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, India, Australia, Saudi Arabia & Spain.

It is anticipated that findings will be released early 2021.

A partnership: World Obesity and RTI International

World Obesity and RTI International have joined forces to produce a replicable, comparable, and understandable modelling framework to calculate the current and projected economic and social impact of overweight and obesity.

World Obesity are the official partner to the World Health Organization on obesity. World Obesity represents professional members of the scientific, medical and research communities from over 50 regional and national obesity associations, and a wider network of obesity organisations across the globe. Through our membership we create a global community of organisations dedicated to solving the problems of obesity.

RTI International are a non-profit research institute that brings together university-calibre research facilities with rich global implementation experience in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The Global Noncommunicable Disease Initiative is a cross-disciplinary team of scientific thought leaders and experts who aim to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases by building evidence for high-impact, cost-effective solutions to address NCDs in low- and middle-income countries.

A new methodology

To calculate the current and projected economic impact associated with overweight and obesity we are developing a new methodology. This model will take a societal perspective and incorporate both direct and indirect costs. Examples of direct costs to be built-in include medical and non-medical costs such as cost of treatment and travel costs to treatment. Examples of indirect costs to be built-in include absenteeism, presenteeism and premature mortality. Projected economic costs will be calculated for 2030, in order to align with the Sustainable Development Goals, and 2060.

It is anticipated that the full methodology will be published early 2021.

Informed by a team of experts

This project is being informed by an independent scientific committee. This group has an advisory and oversight function, supporting methodology development and informing the research. All members are respected leaders in the field of obesity.

 

Dr Rachel Nugent, Chair, RTI International

Dr Rachel Nugent

Rachel Nugent, PhD, has more than 30 years of experience in global development as a researcher, practitioner, and policy advisor to governments. She leads a team charged with providing policy analysis, implementation, and evaluation of cost-effective strategies to prevent and control global noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). RTI’s global NCD experts generate and translate new evidence to help guide global and national decision-making aimed at noncommunicable disease detection, prevention, and control.

In an effort to reduce premature mortality from these diseases, Dr Nugent will coordinate capabilities including health economics and evaluation; communication and behavior change; epidemiology and survey research; establishment of disease and risk factor registries; and development of guidelines, care pathways, and medical technology applications for global NCDs.

 

Professor Franco Sassi, Imperial College

Professor Franco Sassi

Professor Franco Sassi graduated with a degree in economics and a doctorate in health economics from the University of London in 2000. He is currently Chair in International Health Policy and Economics and Director of the Centre for Health Economics & Policy Innovation at Imperial College Business School, and a Senior Health Economist at the OECD (on leave). Previously he was Senior Lecturer in Health Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and held adjunct and visiting positions at a number of universities in the US, including the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, the University of California at San Francisco, and Duke University — as well as at the at the Université de Montréal in Canada and at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome.

Professor Sassi's research focuses on economic analysis of health services, the economics of chronic disease prevention and measuring inequalities in access to healthcare. He is Principal Investigator and Project Coordinator on the European Commission funded Horizon 2020 project Science & Technology in childhood Obesity Policy (STOP). He is the lead author of Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat (OECD and Edward Elgar, 2010), editor and author of Tackling Harmful Use: Economics and public health policy (OECD, 2015) and Promoting Health, preventing disease: The economic case (OUP, 2015); and author of a large number of publications on the economics of chronic disease prevention. He was awarded a 2000–2001 Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy.

 

Dr Kelly Brownell, Director of the World Center on Food Policy, Duke University

Dr Kelly Brownell

Kelly Brownell is Director of the World Food Policy Center at Duke University, where he is also Robert L. Flowers Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. From 2013-2018 he served as Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke.

In 2006 Time magazine listed Kelly Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “.. whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.” Brownell was elected to membership in the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in 2006 and has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, Graduate Mentoring Award from Yale, the James McKeen Cattell Award from the New York Academy of Sciences, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Purdue University, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rutgers University, and the Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology from the American Psychological Association.

Dr Brownell has published 15 books and more than 350 scientific articles and chapters. He has served as President of several national organizations, including the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, and the Division of Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

 

Dr Tim Lobstein, Visiting Professor, The Boden Institute, University of Sydney

Dr Tim Lobstein

Tim Lobstein is a visiting professor at the University of Sydney, NSW, and at the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia. He has recently retired as Director of Policy for the World Obesity Federation based in London and continues as consultant to the organisation, as well as to UNICEF and various other authorities and non-governmental organisations.

Dr Lobstein has extensive experience in data and policy analysis, policy dissemination, evidence reviews and knowledge transfer and has been principal investigator in EU-funded projects on marketing food and beverages to children, and has been a work-package Leader in eight EU-funded consortia projects related to nutrition, the prevention and management of obesity, and health impact assessment. Dr Lobstein is a founding member of the INFORMAS research consortium, and a commissioner on the Lancet Commission on the Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition and Climate Change.

 

Dr Meera Shekar, Global Lead, Nutrition, The World Bank

Dr Meera Shekar

Meera Shekar is Global Lead for nutrition with the World Bank’s Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice and Program Manager for the Power of Nutrition TF at the World Bank. Meera has a PhD in international nutrition, epidemiology and population studies from Cornell University and is a Commissioner on the Lancet Commission on Obesity co-led by the University of Auckland & GW University. Over the last several years, she has led the repositioning of the nutrition agenda that led to the new global Scaling-up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, and was a key thought leader on the Catalytic Financing Facility for Nutrition that evolved in to the Power of Nutrition.

Meera serves as the chair for the SUN executive committee and has been one of the principals for the emerging aid-architecture for the SUN, and the G8 and G20 agenda-setting process for food security and nutrition over the last several years. She leads the global and country-level costing and financing analyses at the World Bank, and the first ever global Investment Framework for Nutrition and author of the World Bank’s fist analytics on the Health and Economic consequences of obesity. She has also worked on the demographic dividend and population and development issues.

Upcoming

It is anticipated that findings for our 8 ‘pilot’ countries will be released early 2021. Results will be published in academic journal and will be live here on the Global Obesity Observatory. We are also planning a launch event and/or webinar to unveil the findings.

Once the findings of the pilot countries are launched, we hope to expand and apply the methodology across the world to create a global atlas of the true economic and social impact of obesity.

Stay tuned!

Funding

This project is funded by an unrestricted grant from Novo Nordisk.

World Obesity and RTI International have put several safeguards in place to maintain transparency, reproducibility, and iterative critical review of the research process for this project.

A ‘Conflict of Interest’ statement has been completed for this project which is available here.

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