World Health Statistics 2012

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World Health Statistics 2012 is the World Health Organization’s annual report of health-related data from all 194 WHO member states. The report includes a summary of the progress made towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals and associated targets. This year, it also includes highlight summaries on the topics of noncommunicable diseases, universal health coverage and civil registration coverage.

Select data from the report:

  • Measles deaths declined by 74% between 2000 and 2010.
  • In 2010, 85% of children age 12-23 months worldwide were immunized against measles.
  • Hypertension is considered directly responsible for 7.5 million deaths in 2004–about 12.8% of all global deaths.
  • In Africa, more than one third of people are estimated to have high blood pressure and this condition is increasing.
  • Globally, 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
  • Worldwide prevalence of obesity almost doubled between 1980 and 2008.
  • In 2008, 10% of men and 14% of women (half a billion people) in the world were obese.

The report is available in English, French and Spanish.

1. World Health Organization. World Health Statistics 2012. Geneva: WHO, 2012.


Case management guide for diabetes, heart disease and related conditions

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The UK Department for International Development has made available Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity and Hyperlipidaemia Care in Adults: Case Management Desk Guide. This document guides health care workers on the screening, detection and management of type 2 diabetes and its related conditions (hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, alcoholism and smoking). The guide is currently in draft form.

Click here to access a PDF of the guide.

Obesity prevention in Brazil should focus on eating healthy and eating less

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Obesity prevention messages should not only focus on eating healthy, but also eating less food, finds a study from Brazil. According to the study, a high availability of healthy foods does not necessarily mean a low availability of unhealthy foods, i.e., people are not replacing the purchase of unhealthy foods with healthy foods. They, in fact, just eat more overall.

Among populations with low access to food, a higher diversity of available healthy foods was associated with a lower prevalence of underweight. As expected, households with higher incomes and education levels had greater dietary diversity.

1. Bezerra IN, Sichieri R. Household food diversity and nutritional status among adults in Brazil. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011; 8: 22. (open access)

Global epidemic of obesity in children, teens and adults

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Obesity is estimated to contribute more than 2.5 million deaths worldwide every year, making it a major global public health problem. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic non-communicable diseases, and is linked to reduced life expectancy.

A study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research provides insights into the worldwide epidemiology of obesity, its determinants and the role of various preventive and treatment modalities used for the primordial, primary and secondary prevention of overweight and obesity.

Individual and community-based weight control strategies need to be reinforced to reverse alarming trends in the magnitude of overweight and obese children and adults. These approaches include limiting the intake of processed sugars and sodium in prepared foods and manufactured products, portion sizes and time spent watching television and using computers, as well as encouraging eating breakfast on a regular basis. Community level interventions include the creation and maintenance of nearby parks, child-friendly bike and walking paths, and physician encouragement of the importance of healthy diets and regular physical activity to children and parents alike.

1. Raj M, Kumar RK. Obesity in children & adolescents. Indian Journal of Medical Research 2010; 132: 598-607. (open access)

Asian Americans and obesity in California

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Studies show that foreign-born Asian Americans are significantly less overweight and obese than U.S.-born Asian Americans. A new study from California finds that Asian Americans who retain their Asian language are more likely to have a healthy weight. The study pinpoints those who have lost their heritage language and culture as particularly at risk for becoming overweight or obese.

One major reason for the increase in obesity is that acculturation into American culture is likely to increase the consumption of unhealthy food such as burgers, fries and soda. Promoting healthy eating and physical activity associated with the heritage culture of Asian Americans who only speak English may help prevent their increased risk for being overweight or obese.

The study authors suggest further research is needed to determine why retaining heritage culture helps prevent obesity and how the protective behaviors can be extended after each generation.

1. Wang S, Quan J, Kanaya AM, Fernandez A. Asian Americans and obesity in California: a protective effect of biculturalism. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, published online 13 Dec 2010. (open access)

Obesity and metabolic syndrome among Chinese children

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More than 11% of children are overweight in Guanzhou, China

China has experienced an increase in the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity over the last decades. The overall prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in China were approximately five percent and two percent, respectively, in the 1980s. In 2002, 155 million children worldwide were overweight or obese, of which 12 million lived in China.

A new study conducted among school children (age 7-14 years) in Guanzhou City found that more than 11 percent were overweight and seven percent were obese. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome among the children was 6.6 percent overall, 33.1 percent in obese, 20.5 percent in overweight and 2.3 percent in normal weight children. Metabolic syndrome refers to a clustering of specific cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, impaired glucose, elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides and reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

“To address the problem of increasing prevalence of obesity and potentially deadly consequences of metabolic syndrome in Chinese children, more research will be needed focusing on the reasons for the increase of overweight/obesity in children and interventions so as to reduce the epidemics of overweight/obesity and metabolic syndrome in the population,” the study concluded.

1. Liu WJ, Lin R, Liu AL, et al. Prevalence and association between obesity and metabolic syndrome among Chinese elementary school children: a school-based survey. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 780. (open access)

High levels of B vitamins linked to diabetes and obesity

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Long-term exposure to high levels of B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin) may be involved in the increased prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States in the past 50 years, a new study suggests.

The findings, together with the evidence that niacin may induce glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and liver injury, imply the possibility that, among the fortified B-vitamins, excess niacin consumption may play a major role in the development of obesity and 2 diabetes.

Since the high level consumption of niacin in the US is mainly due to the implementation of mandatory grain fortification, therefore, it may be of significance to carefully evaluate the long-term safety of food fortification, the study concludes.

1. Zhou S-S, Li D, Zhou Y-M, et al. B-vitamin consumption and the prevalence of diabetes and obesity among the US adults: population based ecological study. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 746. (open access)

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