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Novo Nordisk and UNICEF partner to prevent childhood overweight and obesity

On 20 November 2019, for World Children’s Day, Novo Nordisk and UNICEF announced an ambitious and collaborative multi-million-dollar global partnership to address the global childhood obesity crisis. 

UNICEF is broadening its programmatic focus on the prevention of childhood overweight and obesity in children and adolescents and early life prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with an ambition to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases, recognizing prevention as a key building block to help build healthier environments to enable improved health. 

UNICEF and Novo Nordisk aim to combine their expertise, reach and convening power to make a significant contribution to the global agenda to prevent childhood overweight and obesity, reaching more than half a million children in Latin America by 2023. The long-term goal is to support governments and decision makers to act and change public policy on this issue. 

Child overweight has far reaching consequences

This partnership responds to UNICEF’s 2019 State of the World’s Children Report, focusing on children, food and nutrition, which provides a stark warning that childhood overweight and obesity is increasing across all continents. Today, 40 million children under the age of 5 are overweight, while the proportion of children and adolescents aged 5 -19 years old who are overweight has nearly doubled in the past 15 years. 

Children affected by overweight and obesity may face challenges in thriving and reaching their full potential. Being overweight can contribute to stigmatization, poor socialization and emotional difficulties and in some cases reduced educational attainment. The Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (WHO 2016) also states that child overweight can lead to a higher risk of developing health problems, including musculoskeletal, orthopedic complications and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 

A complex issue where early prevention is key

The drivers of the recent increase in overweight are multiple. Changes to the modern food supply appear to be one of the dominant drivers of weight gain. This includes inappropriate marketing and advertising, the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages. Other factors contributing to increasing rates of overweight include; poverty and urbanization, as well as declines in physical activity, active transport and active play time due to insufficient access to safe exercise spaces in cities and increased screen time. 

The most efficient solution is to prevent overweight and obesity from developing at an early age. 

An ambitious partnership building on the respective strengths of both organizations 

The partnership builds on the respective strengths of both organizations. 

Novo Nordisk comes with a significant financial and technical commitment to support UNICEF’s efforts on prevention of childhood overweight and obesity. The company has 95 years of knowledge and experience of working with innovation and leadership on non-communicable diseases, with success in multi-stakeholder platforms and partnership programmes in response to the urgent urban diabetes challenge. Their ‘Changing Obesity’ strategy, with an ambition to reduce global obesity by 25% by 2045 underlines their focus on building healthier environments.

UNICEF is the leading global advocate for children’s rights, including their right to good nutrition and health. 

Preventing through three focus areas

Towards a societal and collaborative approach

Novo Nordisk and UNICEF agree that effective prevention lies in the involvement of the society and multiple stakeholders. 

“With partners like Novo Nordisk, we want to ensure that preventing childhood obesity and overweight becomes a broader societal responsibility, involving governments, civil society, the private sector, communities and families,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“There is no doubt that childhood overweight and obesity is a public health crisis that requires immediate attention. Childhood overweight and obesity is more than an individual choice, this is everybody’s business. Together with UNICEF, we hope to help millions of children lead healthy lives and at the same time ease the burden of obesity to society,” says Novo Nordisk President and CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen.

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The partnership focuses on prevention, not treatment UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, service or product.

Source: UNICEF (press release)