The Obesity Crisis in Southeast Asia: Issues, Challenges & Policy Pathways

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  • 2017•05•25     Kuala Lumpur

    Pursuant to its mission as a think tank for global health in the United Nations system, the UNU International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) convened an international conference to address the issues, challenges, and pathways of the obesity crisis in Southeast Asia. Held at the National University of Malaysia on 17–18 May, the conference was attended by representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO, Western Pacific Region), the UNICEF Country Office in Malaysia and Regional Office in Bangkok, and scholars and researchers from universities and research institutes in Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UK, and Vietnam, and the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo.

    According to WHO, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) — mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes — are the leading causes of death worldwide. More than 36 million deaths (63% of global deaths) result annually from NCDs, including 14 million people who die before the age of 70. More than 90% of these premature and preventable deaths from NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries.

    In a report published in 2016, the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity made key policy recommendations highlighting the actions and responsibilities of various stakeholders, including international organisations, the private sector, and academic institutions. This conference explored these policy recommendations from diverse, multidisciplinary perspectives. After opening remarks by Dr Obijiofor Aginam (UNU-IIGH), keynote presentations were delivered by Dr Jessica Blankenship (UNICEF Regional Office, Bangkok), Emeritus Professor Dr Mohd Ismail Noor (Taylor’s University, Kuala Lumpur), and Dr Paul Soo (WHO Country Office, Malaysia). Other presenters included Matthias Helble (Asian Development Bank Institute, Tokyo), Henrique Gobbi Hedler (University of Edinburgh), and Nurul Ain Bt Mohd Emeran (University Sains Malaysia).

    For more about the conference, or to download the conference presentations, see the news story on the UNU-IIGH website.