• Overview
  • Obesity prevalence
  • Trends over time
  • Drivers
  • Health systems
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Obesity prevalence

Adults, 2013-2014

Survey type:Measured
Age:19+
Sample size:1440
Area covered:National
References:Chang HC, Yang HC, Chang HY, et al. Morbid obesity in Taiwan: Prevalence, trends, associated social demographics, and lifestyle factors. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):e0169577. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169577
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 2005-2008

Survey type:Measured
Age:19+
Sample size:1673
Area covered:National
References:Chang HC, Yang HC, Chang HY, et al. Morbid obesity in Taiwan: Prevalence, trends, associated social demographics, and lifestyle factors. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):e0169577. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169577
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 2003-2006

Survey type:Measured
Age:19+
Sample size:2787
Area covered:National
References:Yeh, Chih-Jung, et al. "Time Trend of Obesity, the Metabolic Syndrome and Related Dietary Pattern in Taiwan: From NAHSIT 1993-1996 to NAHSIT 2005-2008." Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 20, no. 2, 2011, pp. 292-300.
Notes:BMI >27 also available
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 1993-1996

Survey type:Measured
Age:19+
Sample size:2860
Area covered:National
References:Yeh, Chih-Jung, et al. "Time Trend of Obesity, the Metabolic Syndrome and Related Dietary Pattern in Taiwan: From NAHSIT 1993-1996 to NAHSIT 2005-2008." Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 20, no. 2, 2011, pp. 292-300.
Notes:BMI > 27 also available
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Adults, 1993-1996

Survey type:Measured
Age:19+
Sample size:3071
Area covered:National
References:Chang HC, Yang HC, Chang HY, et al. Morbid obesity in Taiwan: Prevalence, trends, associated social demographics, and lifestyle factors. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):e0169577. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0169577
Unless otherwise noted, overweight refers to a BMI between 25kg and 29.9kg/m², obesity refers to a BMI greater than 30kg/m².

Children, 2001

Survey type:Measured
Age:6-18
Sample size:24586
Area covered:National
References:Chen LJ, Fox KR, Haase A and Wang JM. (2006). Obesity, fitness and health in Taiwanese children and adolescents. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 60: 1367 - 1375.
Notes:IOTF Cut off. Reference: Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: International survey. BMJ. 2000 May 6;320(7244):1240-3.
Cutoffs:IOTF

Children, 1999

Survey type:Measured
Age:6-17
Sample size:13935
Area covered:National
References:Chen LJ, Fox KR, Haase A, Wang JM. Obesity, fitness and health in Taiwanese children and adolescents. EJCN 2006;online published ahead of print
Notes:IOTF Cut off. Reference: Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: International survey. BMJ. 2000 May 6;320(7244):1240-3
Cutoffs:IOTF

Estimated per-capita fruit intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita fruit intake (g/day)

Estimated per-capita processed meat intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita processed meat intake (g per day)

Estimated per-capita whole grains intake

Adults, 2017

Survey type:Measured
Age:25+
References:Global Burden of Disease, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation http://ghdx.healthdata.org/
Definitions:Estimated per-capita whole grains intake (g/day)

Health systems

Economic classification: High Income

Health systems summary

Taiwan has a universal national health insurance programme that is mandatory for all its citizens (and for internationals residing in Taiwan for longer than six months). This single-payer, compulsory social insurance covers most of the population - 99.9% of the population in 2016 - and is mostly financed through payroll-based premiums. The rest of the funding comes from government funding and out of pocket payments. Private health insurance does not tend to cover services provided by the public health insurance and therefore does not ensure faster access to services and specialists. Overall, out of pocket expenditure is estimated to be approximately 26% of total financing.

Indicators

Where is the country’s government in the journey towards defining ‘Obesity as a disease’?Some progress
Where is the country’s healthcare provider in the journey towards defining ‘Obesity as a disease’?Some progress
In practice, how is obesity treatment largely funded?Out of pocket
Is there specialist training available dedicated to the training of health professionals to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage obesity?No
Have any taxes or subsidies been put in place to protect/assist/inform the population around obesity?No
Are there adequate numbers of trained health professionals in specialties relevant to obesity in urban areas?No
Are there adequate numbers of trained health professionals in specialties relevant to obesity in rural areas?No
Are there any obesity-specific recommendations or guidelines published for adults?Yes
Are there any obesity-specific recommendations or guidelines published for children?Partial

Perceived barriers to treatment

  • High cost of out of pocket payments
  • Obesity not recognised as a disease
  • Lack of (or failure to follow) treatment guidelines/pathways

Summary of stakeholder feedback

Stakeholders praised Taiwan’s universal health insurance system that covers nearly all of its population. It was said that people can generally enter the health system freely, but for obesity there was disagreement between stakeholders about when one with obesity would be picked up by the system. Responses ranged from when people had a BMI >27 kg/m² to >40 kg/m² and one pointed out that patients were more likely to seek treatment is they had higher education and/or a higher income.

Stakeholders reported that Taiwan’s national health insurance generally does not pay for the medical management of obesity. Consequently, obesity treatment is largely covered by out-of-pocket expenditure. This reflects the poor investment into obesity, with obesity management only just starting to be recognised in the health system. It was said that the national health insurance only covered the treatment of severe obesity with bariatric surgery when BMI was >40 kg/m² or between 35-39.9 kg/m² with comorbidities. As a result, most patients living with obesity are not adequately treated. It was reported that people tended to leave the system because of this limited coverage or because they were not referred onto specialist treatment.

The stakeholders noted that there are clinical guidelines for the prevention and management of obesity in both adults and children. However, these are not well implemented yet and there is a need to educate more health professionals and providers about obesity. Training for health professionals was considered limited, with there being a lack of suitably qualified professionals in both urban and rural areas. Stakeholders specifically reported a lack of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Based on interviews/survey returns from 3 stakeholders

Last updated: June 2020

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We are currently finalising our data for this section. It will be available from late 2020.

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