If unchecked, childhood obesity to grow to 70 million by 2025

The World Health Organization says the worldwide epidemic is only getting worse, especially in Africa.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND—If current trends continue, the World Health Organization warns there will be 70 million obese children globally by 2025.

WHO reports the number of overweight or obese infants and children has increased from 31 million globally in 1990 to 44 million in 2012. Over the same period, it says the number of obese children in Africa alone has risen from four to 10 million.

Peter David Gluckman co-chairs the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, established by WHO’s director-general, Margaret Chan. Chief science adviser to New Zealand’s prime minister, Gluckman said obese children will grow up to become obese adults, who will suffer from diabetes, heart disease, high rates of cancer and other health problems.

People have to understand that children are not little adults, he said. Therefore, tackling obesity among this group will involve a strategy different from that employed among adults.

There are two main ways to intervene in childhood obesity, Gluckman says that “they go together.”

“It is about optimizing the health of mothers, of women, of girls before they get pregnant. Optimizing the conditions of pregnancy. Promoting good breast feeding and weaning behaviors, much of which has been lost, particularly in Western countries,” he said.

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