At the 67th World Health Assembly, a new High-Level Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity was officially launched. This new Commission aims to gather the best possible advice on dealing with the crisis of childhood obesity.

In 2012, more than 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese. By 2025, 70 million children under 5 will be overweight or obese if current trends continue.

This Commission has been set up in a framework of the WHO Global Monitoring Framework for Noncommunicable Disease (NCDs), which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It directly links to target no. 7, “halt the rise in obesity”, of the framework, and is meant to specifically monitor the achievements on two indicators: indicator 13 “overweight and obesity in adolescents”, and indicator 23 “marketing of foods to children”.

What is the role of the Commission?

The Commission has been tasked with producing a report specifying which approaches and which combinations of interventions are likely to be most effective in different contexts around the world. The report is to arise from consensus between a broad variety of experts. The Commission is to be co-chaired by Sir Peter David Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Dr Sania Nishtar, founder and President of Heartfile.

No single discipline can provide the groundwork for a strategic approach to tackling childhood obesity. Social scientists, public health specialists, clinical scientists and economists will join together to synthesize the best available evidence into a coherent plan. Actors responsible for food production, manufacturing, marketing and retail; maternal health and nutrition; child health, education and health literacy; physical activity; and public policy will also engage in the task.

The Commission will deliver its report to the WHO Director-General in early 2015 so that she can convey its recommendations to the 2015 World Health Assembly.

Working groups

The Commission will be supported by two working groups:

1) An ad hoc Working Group on Science and Evidence consisting of experts in epidemiology, paediatrics, nutrition, development origins, health literacy, and marketing to children, health economics, physical activity and gestational diabetes will:

  • estimate the prevalence of childhood obesity and its consequences
  • evaluate the economic impact of childhood obesity
  • examine the evidence on prevention of childhood obesity and how to reverse it in affected children
  • determine the best combination of policies to put in place to achieve these goals in different settings
  • evaluate and recommend policy options for monitoring and surveillance.

2) A Working Group on Implementation, Monitoring and Accountability that will consist of experts in monitoring and accountability, joined by representatives of governments, civil society, groups representing children, advocates for child health and nutrition, international organizations and the food industry. This group will develop:

  • a framework for implementation of and accountability for policies recommended by the Working Group on Science and Evidence
  • mechanisms required to monitor recommended policy options
  • assessment of the feasibility of monitoring recommended policy options
  • an approach ensuring that countries are not unduly burdened by reporting requirements.

On the occasion of WHO convening an ad hoc Working Group on Science and Evidence for Ending Childhood Obesity, the public has been invited to comment on the proposed list of experts from 19 May to 2 June 2014.

The comments can be sent to

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