The Straits Times
Published on Jan 24, 2013

Davos divided on tackling the scourge of obesity


DAVOS, Switzerland (REUTERS) - Obesity, a major factor in diabetes and heart disease, imposes costs on both public and private sectors and is a drag on economic growth, but business leaders meeting in Davos can't agree on what they can or should do to address it.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has some notable past achievements in health care, such as galvanising support for the fight against Aids and the vaccination of children in poor countries, but tackling the rise in obesity promises to be a much more complicated task.

"There are huge interests involved. The question is how can we align interests? Industry sees the impact on their bottom line. They need a healthy workforce and healthy consumers," said WEF health and health-care expert Olivier Raynaud.

The WEF estimates a cumulative US$47 trillion (S$57.8 trillion) of output might be lost in the next 20 years due to non-communicable diseases and mental health problems, with obesity to blame for 44 per cent of the diabetes burden and 23 per cent of heart disease costs.