People living with obesity are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the novel coronavirus and appear to have a higher rate of serious complications from the virus. They are therefore a group that needs to be prioritised within new policies on COVID-19 and future pandemic preparedness.
The EASO medical and scientific community all across Europe is intensively engaged in addressing the global COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that an accurate narrative, based on the complex science of obesity, is the basis for policy making and implementation. At EASO, we work to provide and support the implementation of evidence-based policy recommendations by EU Institutions (Commission, Council, Economic and Social Committee), the ECDC, the WHO and OECD which will allow future EU health systems at transborder and national levels opportunities to address the obesity pandemic and prepare for future health threats that poses an added risk to people living with obesity.
It is EASO’s recommendation that EU institutions address obesity as an underlying chronic disease that presents a higher risk for severity of COVID-19 symptoms, complications and hospitalisation and put the following in place to ensure people living with obesity are identified, and measures are put in place to reduce the risk and severity of complications:
- An outcomes-based approach to obesity treatment, long term management and prevention strategies should be integral to COVID-19 Recovery Plans and as part of the “new reality”. Effectively treating obesity significantly contributes to lowering prevalence and severity of over 230 complications of obesity notably prevention of other major NCDs including 80% type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and 20% of cancers – and severity of symptoms for COVID-19.
- Obesity should be formally recognised as a high-risk pre-existing condition for severity of COVID-19 complications and included in the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Guidelines.3
- The European Commission should adopt obesity as the next health mission as an integral element of the “One Health” approach to resilient health systems, with a view to facilitating the development of a harmonised framework for National Plans for obesity for COVID-19 Preparedness as well as more generally as part of the EU Recovery Plan and MFF 2021-2027 as with other major NCDs
- The digital transformation agenda should be leveraged to ensure access to care and ongoing management for PoWs, health professionals and infrastructure services with a key focus on interoperability with other NCDs for which obesity is a gateway disease (EU Health Dataspace)