Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)


Are there any successful policies and programmes to fight overweight and obesity?

Dear colleagues:

We are delighted to invite you to an online discussion on successful policies and programmes to fight overweight and obesity. Please read the background information and answer the discussion questions included below.

Brief context for the discussion forum

The formulation and implementation of public policies and programmes to prevent, monitor and reduce overweight and obesity pose a challenge, both for Latin America and the Caribbean and for most regions in the world.

Overweight and obesity are considered a severe public health issue in many countries, requiring urgent measures at all levels, including the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of adequate policies and programmes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.9 billion adults (over the age of 18) were overweight in 2014, and 600 million were obese. Furthermore, 42 million children under five were overweight or obese in 2013.

To ensure a successful implementation of public policies and programmes, these should be based on scientific evidence and/or proven interventions. However, there is little information on the results and impact of policies and programmes addressing these issues in a comprehensive and holistic manner.

In response to this shortfall, the "Study of international evidence of obesity reduction: lessons learned from case studies" (“Estudio de evidencia internacional en la reducción de obesidad: Lecciones aprendidas de estudios de caso”), is being conducted by FAO and the Catholic University of Chile (known in Spanish as PUC), in consultation with the WHO. The study has two major goals:

  • Gathering and describing the major and most effective existing policies and programmes addressing obesity and overweight at international level.
  • Making the outcomes available to parliamentarians and decision makers (in public policies), with the aim of better inform the design and implementation of initiatives effectively addressing overweight and obesity in the region.

The study is being conducted now and has identified several interventions grouped into the following categories: access (providing nutritious food to vulnerable groups, prohibiting junk food in schools and other public institutions), education (dietary guidelines, nutrition education in the school context, promoting physical activity, public campaigns promoting healthy diets, nutritional labelling, restrictions on junk food advertising), supply (increasing the supply of healthy food in areas like “food swamps” and “food deserts”, facilitating short marketing circuits, improving the nutritional quality of food products) and economic (taxes, subsidies and price changes). In order to strengthen the efforts made so far, this forum and your participation will be crucial in gathering more evidence, experiences of good practices and success stories reflecting the work at the global, regional and national area in this field.

This is why we invite you to answer one or more of the following questions, and to share your knowledge about successful policies and programmes to fight overweight and obesity. Please, bear in mind that we are particularly interested in using this platform to gather and share examples of initiatives implemented by governments, or other institutions in your country or in other countries.

Discussion questions

According to your experience and/or knowledge:

  1. Which policies and/or programmes have been implemented in your country or region to prevent overweight and obesity? Please consider:
  • National/local policies and initiatives (i.e. nutritional labelling, food taxes/subsidies, promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables, dietary guidelines, policies to promote physical activity, nutritional education in other policies)
  • Interventions and/or programs in community and school environments.

Note: Please share links, scientific papers and/or documents to enrich your answers.

  1. Which of the policies and/or programmes mentioned before have succeeded in reducing overweight and obesity levels? Please complete your answer answering the following queries:
  • What was the target population?
  • In which way were results assessed and/or effectiveness determined? What were the success factors that contributed to the effectiveness?
  • What were the main challenges, constraints and lessons learned?
  1. Finally, which ELEMENTS ARE CRUCIAL to effectively support policies, strategies and/or programs targeting overweight and obesity reduction?
  • Please consider elements regarding governance, resources, capacity building, coordination mechanisms, leadership, or information exchange networks, among others.

Please do not hesitate to share your experiences and knowledge on this topic. We look forward to receiving your contributions and working together to strategically overcome this global problem.


Francisca Silva Torrealba, PUC Chile

Rodrigo Vásquez Panizza, FAO Chile

Discussion facilitators

This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.

* Click on the name to read all comments posted by the member and contact him/her directly
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Laura Andrea Miranda Solis


A quien corresponda

De manera adjunta le hacemos llegar la contribución del Consejo Mexicano de la Industria de Productos de Consumo (CONMEXICO) a la discusión sobre las políticas y programas exitosos en combate del sobrepeso y la obesidad en México.


Laura Andrea Miranda Solis

Salud y Bienestar


Marlies Willemsen-Regelink

Steunpunt Smaaklessen & EU-Schoolfruit

I like to let you know that we work on two programmes in the Netherlands:

  • EU-Schoolfruit and veggieprogramme
  • Tastelessons

From both programmes there is no research done in relation to obesity.

Research is done on Tastelessons (Smaaklessen) in the past year.

Some effects on  nutritional behaviour are found.

The EU-Schoolfruit and veggieprogramme in the Netherlands is not evaluated in relation to nutritional behaviour and obesity but I believe that the impact on nutrition behaviour is significant. More and more schools have rules about fruit and vegetables in the school. I see a change during the last 10 years.

Children and parents love the programme. I hope we can do research in the future.

It would also be worth full to compare EU-Schoolfruit initiatives.

Kind regards,

Marlies Willemsen-Regelink

Projectleider Smaaklessen en EU-Schoolfruit en -groente

En Costa Rica existe la Comisión Nacional sobre Promoción de la Salud creada por Decreto 38218-S que es el órgano técnico asesor en materia de prevención de Enfermedades Crónicas No Transmisibles, se cuenta con un plan de acción de la Estrategia Nacional para las ECNT al 2021, este plan se elaboró en conjunto sector público-sector privado.

Existe además el Reglamento de Kioscos Escolares que regula los alimentos que se pueden vender en los centros educativos, desde el año 2013.

Actualmente se trabaja en una Comisión Interinstitucional, la actualización del Reglamento Técnico Centroamericano de Etiquetado Nutricional con base en Codex y se está trabajando en una propuesta voluntaria de etiquetado frontal basado en GDAs.

Aun no se cuenta con indicadores de impacto de las políticas que se han implementado hasta ahora a nivel nacional para la prevención de ECNT.

En Costa Rica el éxito de la implementación de programas de prevención de enfermedades y promoción de la salud se debe al trabajo conjunto sector público-sector privado, y los logros se han alcanzado mediante procesos abiertos de diálogo y negociación.


As we continue with the discussions of how to fight overweight and obesity ,there is the truth by World Health Organisation that  many parts of Africa are best known for appealing for charity to combat famine and  looking at the views of the situation we are already facing an obesity epidemic.In their research they also mention that 12,7% African children will be overweight by 2020. My own analysis is that the percentage will be higher that what they are expecting. The reason being that already many young children are already affected by heart diseases,High Blood Pressure, Asthma and many other related diseases due to obesity.Secondly we are witnessing that children lake much attention by their mothers especially those who are employed as the children spend much time in the care of other people and the childcare quality may be substantially different.There is an increase of School Feeding programs in most of our countries.I also noticed that in all the decision making processes there are few or no women representatives to effect and assess the impact of any changes.Just to keep us reminded that we have changed in diet from traditional nutritious foods to high calories fast foods staples because weight is viewed as a sign of happiness.Another effect is for employed women who are obesity as there is they experience customer discrimination.

There are so many challenges faced due to overweight and obesity which already seems to divide the communities.Just to mention a few of my thoughts on what policies should be put into place.Governments should prevent companies that produce and sell  unhealthy products.It is difficult for someone obesity to get medical care as the medical costs are high and so we appeal the responsible Ministries to put into place a policy that benefits all the rich and the poor.Women should be involved in all decision making processes.We need  a policy that determines and monitor the type of food stuffs to be on the markets. Food and drinks high in fat and sugar should be taxed.If possible fast foods should be banned and looking at the increase of food sold at schools, there is need to regulate these meals



In Afghanistan the national nutrition survey carried out in 2013 shows that the overweight is increasing in women (which was target group for this survey) based on the BMI, as Afghanistan is developing and the transportation facilities and other facilities are growing. So the problem of overweight and obesity is increasing, especially in urban areas and cities. Specific strategy is not present, but awareness raising for communities are started by different channels.

Recently a food dietary guideline was introduced in English and local languages, for health staff and other staff, in order to increase knowledge of the communities .

In all Health facillities, growth monitoring for children under 2, screening for children under 5 and measuring of MUAC is doing in order to find malnutrition.

Also health educations and consultations are providing to the communites on healthy life style, infant and young child feeding and other nutrition topics.

Still we need advocacy and awareness raising regarding over nutrition to prevent obesity and related diseases.

Keith Kline

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
United States of America

Rodrigo’s summary was excellent but omitted two key items:

(a) consistent and clear food labeling (see my prior message on this topic)

(b) institutional support and coping mechanisms for at-risk populations

Example: There are 3,143 county jurisdictions in USA. And one single county, Holmes County in Mississippi, is now famous because it is both the US county with the highest obesity rate (47%), AND the US county documented as the “most food insecure” by USDA. Nearly 40 percent of children there have poor access to food. The common denominator is poverty and a lack of social services.

Keith L. Kline 

Senior Research Staff, Environmental Sciences

Climate Change Science Institute

Center for BioEnergy Sustainability

Oak  Ridge National Laboratory    

1 Bethel Valley Road, Bldg 4500 N, MS 6301

P.O. Box 2008

Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6301


There is no specific policy for the preventing obesity in Afghanistan but in local communities some of food remidies are used for preventing and control obesity.

These food should be avoided for controling obesity or during obesity:

1.Red meat and processes meat.

2.White bread and Whit rice.

3.Potatos, White Pista and sweets.

Strategies for preventin Obesity:

1.Eat five or six serving of fruit or vegetables daily.

2.Exercise regulary especially up and down using of stairs.





Hi everyone!


I really wanted to thank you all for the excellent contributions that we have received. People from more than 36 countries, 5 continents, and from very different areas of work have provided input to the discussion:  from governments, the private sector, universities, independent consultants, NGOs, etc. The result is a great set of proven policies, practices and ideas to fight obesity and overweight, which generally speaking includes: changing the way to measure obesity and overweight, understanding the causes of obesity, changing eating habits, increasing nutritional education at all levels, increasing information and its reachability, increasing the sale and supply of fresh products, increasing physical activity and break sedentary life styles, improving school programs against child obesity with the participation of parents and teachers, imposing taxes on processed food, promoting conservation agricultural practices, and controlling the content of processed food. In addition, many contributors highlighted the importance of coordinating actions among stakeholders like the government, consumers, producers, and the industry. So in order to reduce obesity one should work together and the issue should be approached from different angles.

I want to remind you that the input from the Forum will help us to have a better output regarding the "Study of international evidence of obesity reduction: lessons learned from case studies". As soon as we have completed the study, we will share it with everyone.

Finally, after reading all the comments and practices from all around the world, I believe that the reduction of obesity is possible, even if it is a hard-to-reach and long-term goal.

Thank you again for all the contributions and efforts.


Rodrigo Vásquez Panizza

Manuel Moya

International Pediatric Association. TAG on Nutrition

Dear FSN Forum,

I thank you for the extended deadline. Really it is very appropriate to approach obesity prevention in LMIC, because it is a fast growing problem particularly in growing urban areas and  before overweight grows up to the HIC rates something must be done. Once obesity has been established in children (and adults) treatment is disappointing in spite of using all the facilities given by specialized units that even include bariatric surgery. In the annexed document some new actions addressed to interrupt the  obesity circle of maternal , offspring, mature girls are approached.

Please find in it our program for prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity in low- and middle-income countries.

This is an easy to run and low cost program and that can indicate the basic food changes according to the country (and child population) possibilities.

With my kindest regards


Manuel Moya

Catedrático E/ E Professor & Head

Editor in Chief of the Newsletter. International Pediatric Asociation (IPA)

Chair of the IPA Technical Advisory Group on Nutrition

Board of Directors of IPA Foundation

Academician of the Real Academia de Medicina

Pediatric Dept. University Miguel Hernández

Ctra Valencia s/n, 03550 S.Juan. Alicante. Spain