Novo Nordisk and UNICEF in new partnership to prevent childhood overweight and obesity
in Latin America (Mexico and Colombia)
On World Children’s Day 2019 20 November 2019, 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 leader 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 on prevention of 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 through global advocacy efforts.
Child overweight has far reaching consequences
This partnership responds to UNICEF’s recent 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 serious health problems, including musculoskeletal and orthopedic complications, as well as chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The social and financial toll from childhood overweight and obesity is rising rapidly, affecting all countries in the world, impacting children and overburdening health care systems into the future.
It is a complex issue, where early prevention is key
The drivers of the recent increase in overweight are multiple and complex. Our societies and the way in which we live have changed significantly in past decades, and 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 response to childhood overweight and obesity is everybody’s business - governments, civil society, private sector, communities and families. The most efficient solution is to prevent overweight and obesity from developing at an early age. The environment in which children and families live needs to be addressed to ensure access to sufficient and nutritious foods, combined with the promotion of healthy habits and activities for children.
An ambitious partnership with global reach and regional focus
This global shared value partnership between UNICEF and Novo comes with a significant financial and technical commitment to support UNICEF’s efforts on prevention of childhood overweight and obesity and builds on the respective strengths of both organisations. UNICEF is the leading global advocate for children’s rights, including their right to good nutrition and health, and brings convening power and experience working with governments on children’s needs and rights, scaling solutions and delivering impact for children. Key in this endeavour are partners who can help drive impact at scale with leading global experts in nutrition, overweight and the prevention of NCDs.
Novo Nordisk 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 by changing how obesity is prevented, perceived and treated, underlines Novo Nordisk’s interest in partnerships to strengthen its work in prevention with a focus on building healthier environments.
The partnership - announced on World Children’s Day on 20 Nov 2019 – the 30th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention, aims to:
- Enhance knowledge among decision makers on successful policies to prevent childhood overweight and obesity in middle-income countries;
- Build awareness of the impact of overweight and obesity on children and their rights and advocate for the need to make systemic changes to address this growing epidemic
- Drive and strengthen multi-sector interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean with specific focus on Mexico and Colombia.
Specifically, the partnership will advocate for systemic changes to shift the focus on childhood overweight and obesity away from the individual to the environment and society.
“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.
Novo Nordisk and UNICEF also hope to demonstrate that collaborating with networks, platforms, resources and expertise will strengthen the partnership outcomes and impact on this agenda.
“There is no doubt that childhood overweight and obesity is a public health emergency 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.
For more information:
- Press release
- Infographic on the partnership
- State of the World’s Children 2019
- The Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (WHO 2016)
- The Heavy Burden of Obesity. The economics of Prevention (OECD Report October 2019)
- Novo Nordisk Changing Obesity
The partnership focuses on prevention, not treatment.
UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, service or product.