2025 WHO obesity targets

The World Obesity Federation updates us on how countries are doing to meet the 2025 WHO obesity targets. Sadly, it doesn’t look good.

World Obesity Day – 4 March

Obesity organisations around the world came together on 4 March 2020 to mark World Obesity Day and call for more comprehensive solutions, treatment, and shared accountability for addressing the global epidemic that is obesity1.

Obesity is a chronic relapsing disease affecting a rapidly increasing number of people worldwide3. A new report, published by the World Obesity Federation, shines a spotlight on the rise in obesity levels around the world and highlights that all countries are worryingly off track to meet the 2025 global targets to which they have committed, despite just five years to go2.

By 2025, global obesity prevalence is predicted to reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women4, with many countries experiencing much higher levels. Five countries, US, China, Brazil, India and Russia, account for around a third of all cases of obesity in adults globally.

Low- and middle-income countries

Once seen as a health concern in high-income countries only, the greatest rise and highest numbers of obesity are now seen in low- and middle-income countries. Countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh are experiencing some of the most rapid rises.

Table 2: Countries with the most rapid rise in obesity prevalence 1995-2016 [4]

CAGR* as %


CAGR* as %

1 Lao PDR 9.5 Vietnam 6.9
2 Vietnam 9.5 Lao PDR 6.6
3 Indonesia 8.8 Burkina Faso 6.1
4 Maldives 8.4 Rwanda 6.1
5 Timor-Leste 8.0 Nepal 6.0
6 China 7.9 Timor-Leste 6.0
7 Thailand 7.9 Bangladesh 5.9
8 Bhutan 7.7 Bhutan 5.9
9 Myanmar 7.7 Cambodia 5.9
10 Rwanda 7.6 Indonesia 5.9


In many of these countries, undernutrition still prevails, and they are now experiencing the double burden of malnutrition. This is especially true for countries in Africa where rates vary substantially, with Algeria and South Africa showing the highest proportion of adults with obesity.

Table 3: Countries in Africa with the largest proportion of adults over 20 living with obesity [4]
Country % men with

BMI ≥30kg/m2

Country % women with

BMI ≥30kg/m2

Algeria 20.7 South Africa 41.0
South Africa 16.0 Algeria 36.2
Gabon 10.0 Botswana 30.5
Botswana 8.5 Lesotho 27.7
Seychelles 7.9 Swaziland 27.2

Increased risk of other non-communicable diseases

Left untreated, the consequences of obesity are likely to escalate. This includes an increased risk of other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Thus putting the other WHO NCD targets in jeopardy as well.

A high BMI has been linked to 217,6 million cases of diabetes5, 307 million cases of hypertension6, 11.7 million cases of cardiovascular disease7and almost 500 000 cases of certain cancers8, needing more extensive and costly interventions.

Healthcare expenditure attributable to obesity

Obesity also has staggering financial and social impacts, as well as an impact on future generations. It has been estimated that the total cost of high BMI to health services globally is US$990 billion per year9,10, with the highest costs in the Eastern Mediterranean and America regions.

Table 5: Estimated national healthcare expenditure attributable to overweight and obesity: global and regional ($US) [9,10]
WHO region Total health care expenditure ($US) Expenditure attributed to high BMI ($US) High BMI expenditure as % of total healthcare expenditure
Global 7,482.3bn 990.6bn 13.2%
African Region 84.8bn 7.4bn 8.8%
Region of the Americas 3,784.3bn 669.2bn 17.7%
South-East Asian Region 141.9bn 4.8bn 3.4%
European Region 1,921.4bn 218.5bn 11.4%
Eastern Mediterranean Region 147.8bn 20.1bn 13.6%
Western Pacific Region 1,402.0bn 70.6bn 5.0%

In Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, obesity is estimated to cost 3,3% of total GDP, with the highest cost seen in countries, such as Mexico (5,3%) and Brazil5.

Map: Cost of obesity as percent GDP in OECD countries – provided by RTI International, based on [11]

Stigma and misunderstanding around obesity

Furthermore, obesity has significant impact on employment, education and mental well-being, exacerbated by the stigma and misunderstanding around obesity.

When it comes to a disease like obesity, there is more complexity than meets the eye. Many people, including healthcare professionals, policymakers, and others are guilty of seeing it as a simple lack of personal responsibility. But like all chronic diseases, the root causes of obesity run much deeper. They can be genetic, psychological, sociocultural, economic, and environmental.

Organisations around the world are calling for this cycle of shame and blame to be broken and to re-evaluate our approach for addressing this complex, chronic disease that affects over 650 million adults and more than 125 million children worldwide.

Declaration for obesity targets

Professor Donna Ryan, President of the World Obesity Federation, said, “Despite government commitments, not a single country is on track to meet the WHO goals and there is far too much inertia instead of action. There is no excuse for this inaction. People with obesity require respectful and equitable access to treatment or opportunities for prevention. This requires action from policymakers around the world to address the underlying roots of obesity.”

To mark the first unified World Obesity Day, a Declaration has been drawn up by obesity groups to highlight the five areas, the roots, in which action must be taken by policymakers to achieve the targets on obesity to which they have committed.

Signatories to the Declaration are some of the world’s largest obesity organisations, and the Declaration is now open for individual supporters to add their voices to this urgent call for a comprehensive and effective government response to obesity in their own countries12.

According to Johanna Ralston, Chief Executive Officer of the World Obesity Federation, “The absence of a comprehensive view of obesity has translated into fragmented health systems, weak policies and poor translation of medical knowledge into widely available prevention and care. Obesity does not occur in silos and it will not be solved in them either. That is why we are launching a Declaration on obesity, calling on governments and policymakers to join civil society organisations around the world in supporting greater collective action and to further raise awareness about this serious, chronic disease.”

Countries with the best chance of meeting the 2025 target for obesity4
    men     women
1 Andorra 6% Andorra 32%
2 American Samoa 3% Estonia 20%
3 China (Hong Kong) 3% Latvia 20%
4 Djibouti 3% Russian Federation 20%
5 Mauritius 3% China (Hong Kong) 18%
6 Nauru 3% Lithuania 18%
7 Comoros 2% Singapore 18%
8 Cyprus 2% Israel 17%
9 Estonia 2% Malta 16%


[1] See www.worldobesity.org for more information about World Obesity Day

[2] These targets include a zero increase in obesity prevalence between 2010 and 2025. See: http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/WHA66/A66_R10-en.pdf (see pages 43-44)

[3] Bray, B.A et al. (2017) See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28489290

[4] NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. (2017) Visit http://ncdrisc.org/

[5] International Diabetes Federation (2019) See: https://www.diabetesatlas.org/en/

[6] World Health Organization (2019) See: http://apps.who.int/gho/data/

[7] Roth GA et al. (2017) See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28527533

[8] Pearson-Stuttard J et al. (2018) See: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(18)30150-5/fulltext

[9] World Health Organization (2019) See: https://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2019/EN_WHS_2019_Main.pdf

[10] World Obesity Federation (2017) See: https://www.worldobesity.org/resources/resource-library/calculating-the-costs-of-the-consequences-of-obesity

[11] OECD (2019) see: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/the-heavy-burden-of-obesity_67450d67-en

[12] World Obesity Day declaration available at: Declaration


The summary report Obesity: missing the 2025 targets is available here.