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EU-ASEAN Business Council Calls for a Multi-Faceted Approach to Address Obesity in ASEAN

Singapore – 26th May 2023: The EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC), an advocacy organisation representing the interests of European businesses operating in Southeast Asia, today published a report addressing the alarming prevalence of obesity in the Southeast Asia titled “Battling Obesity in ASEAN”, in partnership with Novo Nordisk Southeast Asia.

The report sheds light on the serious health complications, economic impact and other unseen costs associated with obesity. It also provides recommendations on the systemic interventions needed to make a positive difference for people living with obesity.

The report recommends implementing the ROOTS framework, which aims to address the many drivers of obesity and identify core actions for government, private sector, civil society, healthcare professionals and individuals to manage obesity. This includes recognising obesity as a disease, monitoring obesity, developing preventive strategies across the life course and evidence-based treatment, as well as strengthening healthcare system to manage obesity through its incorporation into primary and secondary care. Going beyond the ROOTS framework, EU-ABC also identified areas of improvement across the region, including training healthcare professionals and strengthening primary care facilities, and laid out actionable steps in the report for a whole-of-society approach to prevent, diagnose, treat and monitor obesity.

The World Health Organization recognises obesity as a complex and chronic disease, caused by a multitude of factors including genetics, psychosocial and the obesogenic environment. While obesity is a multifactorial non-communicable disease, it has long only been recognised as a risk factor of other chronic diseases or a nutrition issue. Given the link between obesity and more than 200 other chronic diseases and morbidity, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, obesity can pose a significant economic and healthcare system burden if there is no effective solution. Obesity is a critical concern for public health in Southeast Asia, where over 52.4 million adults and 21 million children and adolescents are projected to be obese by 2030.

ASEAN Member States are committed to prevent and manage chronic diseases, including obesity, through the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda, which outlines recommendations to promote a healthy, caring and sustainable ASEAN community. While ASEAN Member States have adopted measures to promote healthy eating and physical exercise, additional holistic, equitable and person-centred interventions across prevention and treatment are needed to address the multi-factorial nature of obesity.

Commenting on the report, Chris Humphrey, Executive Director at the EU-ASEAN Business Council said “Tackling obesity in ASEAN first starts with recognising obesity as a multifactorial chronic disease and not merely looking at it as a nutrition issue caused by poor lifestyle choices. This shifts away our misconception that obesity is the personal responsibility of people living with obesity towards our recognition of obesity as a chronic disease that requires holistic approaches including prevention and long-term management. For a region as diverse as ASEAN, we need tailored approaches to successfully address obesity and we need to take a collaborative approach involving different stakeholders, including governments, businesses and healthcare professionals. Only by working together and addressing the root causes of obesity can we make progress towards a healthier ASEAN.”

Dr. Vinay Prusty, Senior Director at Novo Nordisk Southeast Asia said, “Obesity is an urgent public health concern that needs immediate attention and action. To successfully manage this health challenge and to make a positive impact for people living with obesity in Southeast Asia, we must first shift our focus by taking a comprehensive, holistic and personalised approach to obesity. As a company that is committed to improving the lives of patients, Novo Nordisk is proud to be able to support the development of this important report for the region that can open up discussions to improve the standard of care for people living with obesity in Southeast Asia.”

The full report of “Battling Obesity in ASEAN” report is available here.

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