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Latest worldwide estimates suggest that by 2016, 41 million children under 5 years and 337 million aged 5–19 years were overweight; obesity rates in the latter population had seen a tenfold increase in just four decades.1 2 Overweight and obesity affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and neuromuscular systems. An associated and increasing burden of chronic disease, coupled with the related economic costs of increased disability and reduced productivity, is devastating health systems and hindering socioeconomic development in many nations.
Prevention-focused policy with a particular emphasis on nutrition is key to combating this epidemic. However, this alone will be insufficient; a growing body of evidence now also supports complementary, individual-level, lifestyle interventions to arrest and reverse the established burden. Recently published Cochrane reviews, for example, suggest that multicomponent lifestyle modification may afford small but important reductions in age-standardised body mass index for children and adolescents of all ages.3 In addition, interventions that recruited overweight parents of young children also resulted in a significant and sustainable reduction in parental weight.
At a national level, strong correlations exist between socioeconomic status (SES) and child …
Contributors LM and ARD wrote and finalised this invited editorial.
Disclaimer ARD is a staff member of the World Health Organization in Geneva. He alone is responsible for any views expressed in this publication and these do not necessarily represent the decisions or policies of any third party.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.