Session 642

Program Overview

Overweight and obesity affect over 2 billion people worldwide, causing at least 2.8 million deaths annually.  An estimate of the economic cost is 2.8% of global GDP.  Since the 1970s the prevalence of excess weight has more than tripled across populations around the world to 13 %, but among children the proportion has reached 18% (over 30% in the United States).  There is variation in this but projections continue to show an upward trend in most countries, with  persistent and deep disparities and profound consequences for physical and mental health.  Given the complexities involved in this phenomenon, what can be done about it? 

Over the past decade, our collective understanding of the systems, forces, and conditions that impact childhood obesity has evolved. Increasingly, initiatives in this area have focused on policy and environmental changes. In many parts of the world, we have moved forward as we have shifted national conversations and public discourse away from just personal responsibility to an understanding that it is also the systems and policies that shape our ability to live well and access opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity.

There is increasing recognition that the systems and policies that drive obesity in childhood are the same systems that broadly impact the health and well-being of children and families.  What this means is that we are unlikely to solve the childhood obesity crisis unless we are widening our lens to think about broad changes, such as policies that better support families. Until we address the broader determinants of obesity and barriers to its treatment in low income and minority populations, the current disparities in the prevalence of obesity and other chronic diseases will persist and may even increase. The epidemic of childhood obesity is deeply intertwined with related challenges around food access, income inequality, a fragile safety net, inadequate public transportation, and the scarcity of affordable housing. One of the most pressing challenges for preventing and controlling the global epidemic is to ensure that the public health interventions that are being deployed are reaching and benefitting the most socially disadvantaged populations.

This Salzburg Global program will highlight how global innovations and ideas in the childhood obesity prevention space could help optimize health outcomes for children everywhere. Building on Salzburg Global’s long-standing series on health systems transformation, including last year’s seminar on creating healthy environments and shared value for children, and on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s approach to a Culture of Health, this program will enable participants from across the world to review strategies and consider adaption in different contexts to enable all children to grow up at a healthy weight.

Program and General Information

The program can be downloaded here.

The general information can be downloaded here.

Virtual Library

Atlas of Child Obesity. World Obesity, 2019.

Arantxa Colchero, M. Sustained consumer response: evidence from two-years after implementing the sugar sweetened beverage tax in Mexico, Health Aff (Millwood). 2017 Mar 1.

Backholer, Kathryn, and others. A Framework for Evaluating the Impact of Obesity Prevention Strategies on Socioeconomic Inequalities in Weight, PMC, October 2014.

Bergmeier, Heidi, and others. Early mother-child dyadic pathways to childhood obesity risk: A conceptual model, ScienceDirect, Volume 144, 1 January 2020.

Canhada, Scheine Leite, and others. Ultra-processed foods, incident overweight and obesity, and longitudinal changes in weight and waist circumference: the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil), Public Health Nutrition, 2019.

Farpour-Lambert, N.J., Childhood Obesity Is a Chronic Disease Demanding Specific Health Care - a Position Statement from the Childhood Obesity Task Force (COTF) of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), ObesityFacts, 2015.

FAO/WHO: The Nutrition Challenge.

Fischer, Edward. Beyond Nutrition: Eating, Innovation, and Cultures of Possibility, Sight and Life, 2017/07.

Healthy Eating Pyramid. Nutrition Australia.

Kannter, Rebecca, and others. Anticipatory effects of the implementation of the Chilean Law of Food Labeling and Advertising on food and beverage product reformulation, ObesityReviews, 27 June, 2019.

Kumanyika, Shiriki K. A Framework for Increasing Equity Impact in Obesity Prevention, American Journal of Public Health, 4 June, 2019.

Ministry of Health of Brazil. Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population, 2015.

Mozaffarian, Darish, and others. History of modern nutrition science—implications for current research, dietary guidelines, and food policy, BMJ, 13 June, 2018.

Obesity Evidence Hub.

Obesity Policy Coalition. What we Do: Tipping the Scales.

Odoms-Young, Angela. Examining the Impact of Structural Racism on Food Insecurity: Implications for Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities, PMC 2019 April 1.

Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. Ultra-processed Food and Drink Products in Latin America: Sales, Sources, Nutrient Profiles and Policy Implications, 2019.

Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization. Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in Children and Adolescents, 2014.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Dietary guidelines for children under 2 years of age in the context of nurturing care, Wiley Online Libray, 25 June, 2019.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach, Healthy Eating Research, February 2017.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael. Nutrition Disparities and the Global Burden of Malnutrition, BMJ, 13 June, 2018.

Perez-Escamilla, Rafael, and others. Prevention of childhood obesity and food policies in Latin America: from research to practice, ObesityReviews, 25 July, 2017.

Reyes, Marcela, and others. Development of the Chilean front-of-package food warning label, BMC Public Health, 2019.

Singal Louise N., and others. Children’s everyday exposure to food marketing: an objective analysis using wearable cameras, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2017.

Skouteris, Helen. Commentary: Obesity and Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Postpartum: an Evidence Review of Lifestyle Interventions to Inform Maternal and Child Health Policies, Front Endocrinol, 2019.

Swinburn, Boyd. Power Dynamics in 21st-Century Food Systems, Nutrients, 2019.

The Eatwell Guide

Veatupu, Loma, and others. Me’akai in Tonga: Exploring the Nature and Context of the Food Tongan Children Eat in Ha’apai Using Wearable Cameras, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2019.

Whitaker, Robert C. The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Lessons for Preventing Socially Determined Health Conditions, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Key Questions

  • What might be the key driver to prioritize, the most transformative, evidence-based approach to childhood obesity prevention we could pursue today, that would impact disparities in prevalence rates – and where we could see a measurable impact within 3 to 5 years?
  • What are the most critical conditions that are impacting our children’s risks of obesity? What specific innovations, policies, and practices around the world have most successfully addressed those, developing new approaches and achieving better, more equitable outcomes in childhood obesity?
  • Through cost effectiveness analysis studies, sugar-sweetened beverage excise tax has been found to be the most cost effective policy strategy and one that will improve the health of the population and reduce health disparities.  Where has this  strategy proved most effective; what are the greatest challenges to this strategy; and how can they be mitigated.
  • What are the most significant changes to the food and beverage industry that could have the biggest impact?  How do we get companies to make those changes? Where does industry self-regulation work best vs governmental regulation?What is the potential impact in bringing together healthcare, public health and social services – to change the supports that children and families at risk receive and to address childhood adverse experiences contributing to obesity?  What else may need to be done in the critical window of early childhood to address the obesity epidemic?
  • How can we ensure that philanthropy or human/social service organizations, in healthcare, and in thought leadership and political life, understand, and act on, the change of culture needed to ensure equitable access to food and exercise?

Session Format

This five-day highly-interactive session, held at Schloss Leopoldskron, home of Salzburg Global Seminar, will prioritize opportunities for cross-border sharing and learning. Participants will focus on building new insights and aggregating perspectives and experiences from relevant sectors, areas of expertise and regions. Working groups, each with a thematic and/or country focus, will prepare recommendations for action by diffrent target audiences.

Participant Profile

Salzburg Global Seminar’s Health and Health Care Innovation sessions seek to bring together cross-sector and crossgenerational change-makers to tackle complex challenges. This program will bring together 60 innovators and stakeholders from around the world who have engaged families, communities and policymakers in integrated approaches to tackle the obesity epidemic. The group will span perspectives from community and civil society organizations; nutrition, education, psychology and behavioral science; urban planning and physical activity; local and national government; business and the media; and philanthropy.

Outcomes and Impact

This session will seek to:

  • Seed new and innovative approaches through international and crossborder exchange and the transmission of best practice.
  • Create the basis for ongoing networking and collaborations among participants and
  • the institutions they represent.
  • Co-create action plans designed and agreed by participants for them to take
  • forward as appropriate at local and regional levels, and to leverage the global
  • scope of the project to inflence public opinion and democratic debate and
  • policymaking.
  • Issue a Salzburg Statement identifying best practice and framing opportunities for addressing the obesity epidemic.
  • Publish an agenda-setting report