The increase in rates of overweight and obese people in middle-income countries, such as Mexico, Brazil and China, is worrying health experts who say that taking measures now would be more cost-effective than when rates have reached rich-country proportions. A study by the OECD published in The Lancet 11 November comes to the conclusion that “a strategy [including] mass media campaigns promoting healthier lifestyles, taxes and subsidies to improve diets, tighter government regulation of food labeling and restrictions on food advertising” would add five million years of added life expectancy over 20 years in India and China.
India and China could spend the equivalent of $2 annually per person on such a strategy, while Mexico, Russia and South Africa would need to spend $4 per person per year, say Michele Cecchini and his team. “The strategy would pay for itself – through reduced health care costs – in half the countries surveyed, and would become cost-effective in the others within 15 years”, says the OECD.
The authors studied rates of overweight and obese adults in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa. Seventy percent of Mexicans fall into this category; in India, 15 percent of adults are overweight or obese, and the proportion is rising rapidly, the report says.
The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2015, world wide, 2.3 billion people will be overweight and 700mn will be obese.