How can we cut levels of obesity in Europe? | Debating Europe


All this week, Debating Europe will be publishing a themed series of posts looking at the issue of health and wellness in Europe. With healthcare budgets increasingly coming under pressure, it’s important to look at ways to maintain public health without breaking the bank.  We’re starting our series by looking at the problem of increasing levels of obesity in Europe.

The Word Health Organization (WHO) reports that obesity has almost doubled worldwide since the 1980s, so that almost 7 out of 10 people on the planet now live in a country where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight. The available data suggests this is is a global problem, affecting both the developed and developing world alike.

In an earlier debate on the EU’s agricultural policy, we had a suggestion sent in from Christos from Greece about cutting back on food wastage:

Perhaps we should start closing a lot of the fast food chains [the US] created and spread all over the world! Who needs to eat beef burgers on a daily basis anyway?

Which suggests this might be more of an American issue, and less important for Europeans. However, despite the stereotype of “sturdy” American bodytypes, this is indeed a problem that affects us here in the EU. According to US government figures, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. European numbers are only slightly better, with the WHO reporting that roughly 23% of women and 20% of men were obese in Europe.

To get a better idea about the issue, we spoke to Jean-Michel Borys from EPODE, the obesity prevention network. We asked him whether obesity was less of an issue in Europe than the US:

We also put a comment to Jean-Michel Borys from Catherine, who argued that the problem is not the amount of food that people are eating, but the quality of that food. Catherine argues that food today is full of steroids, chemicals and low nutritional content.

Next, we put Catherine’s comment to Richard Seeber, an Austrian MEP with the centre-right European People’s Party group and a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety in the European Parliament.

What do YOU think? Is obesity just a problem for the US, or is it also something we need to tackle in Europe? And how can we encourage people to eat healthy and exercise more without nannying them? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts to hear their reactions.