MEP Group for Obesity and Health System Resilience: Our Manifesto

Constituted in March 2021, the MEP Interest Group on Obesity & Health System Resilience focuses on finding policy solutions to remove barriers in the implementation of obesity as a chronic relapsing disease in Europe and contribute to building back resilient health systems building on the Strategic Foresight Process and the EU4Health agenda.

According to the European Commission (published 4 March 2021)

“Pre-obesity (overweight) and obesity are medical conditions marked by an abnormal and/or excessive accumulation of body fat that presents a risk to health (WHO 2019). Obesity is a chronic relapsing disease, which in turn acts as a gateway to a range of other non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.”

Europe has set out on a pathway to build back resilience and has placed health system resilience as a core pillar to success in the coming years.

The MEP Interest Group on Obesity and Health System Resilience acts as a catalyst for moving beyond political will in crafting policies to remove barriers to the implementation of obesity as a chronic disease beyond primary prevention.

Autonomous and transparent governance is strongly needed as we move forwards.

In order to build a health ecosystem that is fit for purpose, the MEP Interest Group on Obesity and Health System Resilience urges the European Parliament, other EU institutions and national public administrations to:

  1. Carefully review the European Commission’s Brief on Obesity prevention and identify gaps in knowledge and policies which are hindering full implementation of obesity as a chronic disease in its own right as defined in the brief.
  2. Define a clear schedule and policy pathway as well as capacity building to realise an EU-wide harmonised approach to implementing obesity as a chronic disease.
  3. Prioritise the co-design and legal basis for Obesity National Plans for the primary prevention, treatment and long-term management as part of the ongoing review process at EU and national levels for respective Recovery and Resilience programmes and the European Semester cycle.

In order to build sustainable human and physical resources, we must learn from previous major health threats such as COVID-19

To this end, the MEP Interest Group on Obesity and Health System Resilience urges the European Parliament, other EU institutions and national public administrations to initiate policy interventions which allow:

  1. The integration of obesity as a chronic disease as part of the core curricula for all health professional education at national level in line with the EC Directive 2005/36 on the recognition of professional qualifications
  2. Ensure that as part of discussions on the implementation of the European Health Union Agenda, provision is made for qualified human resources to be replenished to “pre-pre-pandemic  levels” at which time diverted human resources were never returned and indeed the situation has been severely exacerbated under COVID-19.

The cost of not addressing obesity in its own right within the NCD framework

Addressing obesity as other NCDs will considerably lighten the financial impact of obesity rates and severity across the Union; currently conservatively estimated to be 7% of GDP in OECD countries. However, the financial impact of not approaching obesity from a value-based healthcare approach will not only continue the negative economic trajectory, for health system spending, but will put our bloc’s ability to be the most competitive at risk due to a workforce which is severely hampered by avoidable or manageable bad health.

We must ensure sufficient monetary resources in the system and flexibility to reallocate and inject extra funds; ensuring stability of health system funding through countercyclical health financing mechanisms and reserves; purchasing flexibility and reallocation of funding to meet changing needs; and comprehensive health coverage. We therefore call on Public Administrations and EU agencies to:

  1. Ensure that sufficient financial resources are retained and re-injected at regional level health clusters and is clearly delineated as a measurement of success as part of the recovery and resilience planning exercises.
  2. Take up available capacity-building from technical support agencies such as Commission DG REFORM on how to understand and implement value-based healthcare approach to addressing priority NCDs like obesity beyond primary prevention.

Supporting and enabling a sustainable infrastructure for obesity as an NCD is key

COVID-19 has taught us of the need to embed alternative and flexible approaches to deliver care along the continuum and to ensure that we minimise health inequalities in access to care. We strongly urge public administrations at EU, national and territorial levels to:

  1. Identify relevant obesity health outcomes that matter to People Living with Obesity as well as related health professionals, service deliverers and economic actors that can be integrated into the EU Health Data Space.
  2. Focus on ensuring that vulnerable groups can access the treatment and other interventions that they need virtually as well as through their physical environment.

As we build a new reality across Europe in a Post COVID-19 era, a silent pandemic – the chronic disease (Non-Communicable Disease) of obesity – will persist unless we, as policymakers and civil society alike take action. The time to act is now.