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Our Insights 12 Aug 2014

On Our Radar: Stakeholder Pressure on Rising Obesity Amplifies

By Rida Bilgrami

Image © CC Außerirdische Sind Gesund via Compfight

An abbreviated version of this piece was originally published in the summer issue of Radar Magazine – Issue 04: Better, Connected.

From consumer pressure driving Tesco to ban sweets and chocolates from checkouts in all of its stores to the formation of campaign groups such as Action Against Sugar in the UK earlier this year, there is once again a convergence of stakeholder momentum around the major health and economic costs associated with sugar-related health problems including obesity.

The Lancet has recently published a new set of statistics on global obesity and the big headline is that the number of people who are obese or overweight in the world has topped 2.1 billion, up from 875 million in 1980 and no country has achieved significant decline in obesity in the past 33 years. As the scale of this epidemic accelerates, campaigning NGOs are calling for the adoption of far more stringent rules, including pictures on food packaging of damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarette packets. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has also called for a global governing framework to regulate unhealthy diets, including measures to control foods high in sugar, salt and fat. The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio is also continuing Michael Bloomberg’s fight for a ban on sodas over 16 ounces by appealing to the state’s highest court.

What to look for: A collaboration between Novo Nordisk and Mexico City seeks to to design policy measures to address the city’s high prevalance of obesity, a root cause of diabetes. This signals the kind of integrated approach to obesity and resulting non-communicable diseases that has the potential to be piloted in other cities and through other cross-sector partnerships.

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