World Obesity Day – yesterday – prompted calls from the American Heart Association (AHA) and organizations from many nations to urge all levels of government to increase their investments to improve nutrition and increase physical activity.

“As our world considers all the ways to treat obesity and avoid the consequences later we recognize the true goal is having community members in all corners of the world to achieve a healthy weight,” said Nancy Brown, AHA CEO.

According to the AHA, 2.1 billion people – nearly 30% of the world’s population – are either obese or overweight, more than double what it was in 1980.

Said Brown in a statement:

“For these individuals, universal access to health care that provides multi-disciplinary teams of support services and comprehensive follow up to treatments is critical to reversing trends across the population. In addition, early intervention and effective weight management in schools and worksites play a key role in avoiding high cost medical treatment later down the road.

“To be most effective, our nations must help the rest of the population by creating healthier environments. This will mean implementing evidence-based strategies and policies that help curb junk food marketing to children, push harder for industry solutions that drive down consumption of foods high in sugars and saturated fats and work across public and private sectors to increase physical activity levels and access to safe places to be active. Each nation can play a role in driving support for healthier communities through education. We have seen success in improving food environments and work with all levels of government and the food industry to continue that momentum. Similarly, the movement towards healthy cities that ensures streets are built to be accessible for cyclists and be safe for pedestrians is growing around the globe. As more people eat outside the home, restaurants and the food industry has a responsibility to respond to changing demands of consumers for healthier choices.

“Leaders around the world have many opportunities to improve nutrition and physical activity and by doing so will also reduce rates of two of the leading causes of deaths worldwide—cardiovascular disease and stroke. The World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 set forth a goal of 25% relative reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025 and a halt in the rise of global obesity. Unfortunately, a recent WHO report on the targets of this plan indicates an uneven and slow response by world governments.[1] Without accelerated progress from all our nations, the goals may not be met and the burden of chronic disease and all the associated costs will further impact the communities we serve.

“A holistic approach that empowers individuals and transforms communities with affordable access to healthy foods and ways to be active will drive down rates of obesity. Government leadership in public health and the promotion of comprehensive intersectoral actions and local strategies for health protection and sustainable development cannot be understated.”