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World Health Organization - Global Strategy
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been in intense discussions for two
years on the best strategy to combat the increase of obesity in human
populations around the world. Representatives of several countries met in Geneva
last month to approve the proposed strategy on diet, physical activity and
health. For this month’s thought bullets, I share some of the proposed
components of WHO’s strategic plan. I also want to share with you some of the
controversies that have surrounded the recommendations.
- According to the WHO website, more than one billion people in the world
are overweight. The WHO lists two main causes for the overweight and obesity
epidemic: 1) increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated
fats and sugars, and 2) reduced physical activity.
- Governments around the world will be asked to do the following: 1)
discourage food and beverage advertisements that exploit children; 2) tax
less-healthy foods; 3) limit high-fat and high-sugar foods in schools; and
4) review agricultural policies that may contribute to obesity and related
chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- People around the world will be encouraged to do the following: 1) limit
intake of fat, sugar and salt; 2) increase consumption of fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts; and 3) engage in at least 30
minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days.
- The recommendations have now been debated for two years and received
intense opposition from producers of sugar and other crop and food
producers. The Bush administration suggested changes to earlier versions of
the strategy, requesting more emphasis on personal responsibility and less
emphasis on government interventions.
- Bruce Silverglade, spokesperson for the Center for Science in the Public
Interest stated, "No one is suggesting that government regulate
what foods people put in their mouths, but the World Health Organization
recognizes that government has a role in making the healthy choice the easy
- Michael Diegel, spokesperson for the Grocery Manufacturers of America expressed
concern over the proposal to tax certain foods and agricultural subsidies.
He stated, "Taxes don’t change anybody’s eating habits. They just
make food more expensive."
- Tommy Thompson, Secretary for U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, was expected to endorse the WHO’s Global Strategy on Diet,
Physical Activity and Health and called the plan a "sound blueprint
World Health Organization website:
(Search by key word "obesity.") Accessed May 18, 2004.
Hellmich N. Health agency presents global plan to fight obesity. USA Today,
May 17, 2004.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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