In 2020 the EU commission released their strategic foresight report “Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe” and launched their EU4health programme, an initiative to improve health systems across the European Union and preparing for any future health crisis. With this the EU Commission have cemented their intention to take and strengthen a mission-driven approach to addressing societal and health challenges facing the European Union and have pledged to put in place necessary measures to become more responsive and resilient to future health threats.
Within the foresight report obesity is highlighted alongside cancer as key priorities and it recognises obesity as a major non-communicable disease. In addition, in 2021, the Joint Research Centre, the EU Commission’s science and knowledge service, published new guidance on obesity Obesity prevention | Knowledge for policy (europa.eu) in which they recognise obesity as a chronic relapsing disease, which in turn acts as a gateway to a range of other non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
To date, obesity has been consistently approached as a “lifestyle” choice with strategies focused on primary prevention. The official recognition of obesity as a chronic relapsing disease and a commitment from the EU Commission to prioritise obesity as a major non-communicable disease enables the opportunity to collaboratively drive the implementation of measures which effectively address obesity as a chronic relapsing disease, embraces policy interventions that go beyond primary prevention and ensure long-term management along the life course.
Moving forwards the key focus for the EU commission should be to enable and equip our healthcare systems at regional and national level to better address the full continuum of obesity by:
- Adopting obesity as the next health mission
- Guiding the process of establishing cross-sectoral National Plans for the prevention (primary, secondary and tertiary), treatment and long-term management of obesity as is the case for other chronic relapsing diseases
- Firmly embed obesity indicators as part of the measurement criteria of vulnerabilities and resilience capacities in the Foresight Dashboards
- Establish EU Reference Networks for obesity, building on the COM Network created by EASO, which already exists in most EU Member States.