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Cost-effective strategies for reducing global obesity rates

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An intervention strategy combining better product labeling, food advertisement restrictions and tax incentives to purchase nutritious foods could generate substantial health gains while largely, or entirely, paying for itself through future reductions in health-care costs. That's according to findings published yesterday in The Lancet.

In the study (subscription required), researchers from the World Health Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development examined prevention measures to reduce risk factors for obesity in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and, for comparison, England. The seven countries were selected because each is struggling with rapidly rising rates of obesity or related chronic diseases.

Researchers found that a multi-prong approach involving regulation of food advertising to children, food taxes and/or subsidies and a compulsory labeling scheme are among the most cost-effective way to curb obesity in nations of all incomes. According to a release:

These measures would add nearly 7 million life years in good health over the next two decades in seven countries covering almost half of the world population, at an average annual cost of less than $1 per head.

The paper is part of a series on chronic disease and development published by The Lancet in preparation for a United Nations meeting on chronic non-communicable diseases, which is slated for September 2011.

Photo by sly06

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