Aims: To assess the evolution and patterns of obesity in countries of the WHO European Region with a particular focus on the Eastern European countries, and to discuss the health and economic implications of obesity for those countries.
Methods: The available data on overweight and obesity in children and adults for the countries of the WHO European countries were collated from the International Obesity TaskForce database and considered in the light of estimates for the costs of obesity-related ill health.
Results: Overweight and obesity in most countries of Europe show rising secular trends, and are predicted to continue rising if not addressed. Estimates of the costs to the health services and to economic productivity indicate that some countries may find it hard to cope with the burden of obesity: up to 6% of total health care costs and as much in indirect costs of lost productivity could be attributed to obesity and its associated illnesses.
Conclusions: Transition, despite the many benefits it has undoubtedly conferred to the population living in the Region, has also entailed the collateral damage of a fast growing obesity challenge. Policy-makers in the new and candidate EU countries as well as other countries of the European Region can learn from the negative Western European and global experience, act now to stem the obesity epidemic from further developing and in so doing, reduce the substantial economic losses associated with obesity. Local, national and international strategies will be needed to combat the problem.