Campaigners stepped up their calls for Europe to formally recognise obesity as a chronic disease ahead of European Obesity Day on 21 May.
The move came as stakeholders groups warned that chronic, and long-term diseases in general, face cuts in the upcoming EU research budget reforms and pushed for commitments to EU funding.
European Obesity Day President Jean-Paul Allonsius, speaking at a lunch staged in the European Parliament to raise awareness of the day, called on the EU and member states to recognise obesity as a chronic disease, and help sufferers to find ways of living with the condition.
He said: "This would require the creation of formal healthcare policies to address what is now an EU-wide epidemic."
At present only Portugal recognises obesity as a chronic disease.
European Obesity Day is aiming to achieve the first successful EU citizens' initiative petition with a call on member states and the EU executive to recognise obesity as a chronic disease.
It also wants the Commission to help develop clinical guidelines on weight loss and to develop a public 'scorecard' of member states' efforts to reduce obesity, encouraging the sharing of best practice. It believes such actions will be easier to achieve once the condition is recognised as a chronic disorder.
David Haslam, a GP and clinical director of the National Obesity Forum in the UK, said the EU should support people with obesity – and claimed there was evidence of a link between obesity, especially in middle-aged women, and the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Chronic diseases to lose out in research re-jig?
Meanwhile, chronic disease in general is in danger of suffering funding cuts under the new research framework programme - FP8 - according to the European Public Health Association (EUPHA).
At a meeting in Brussels this week (4 May), EUPHA's co-ordinator for public health research, Professor Mark McCarthy, said: "Spending at present is distorted towards industry and pharmaceutical. We need research linked to public policy."
McCarthy said that under the current EU research programmes, around 20% of spending under the structural funds is directed at health research, equivalent to around €70 billion over seven years, and a further €6 billion comes from the FP7 programme.
He told EurActiv: "Our concern is that when under the new common strategic framework [which will be unveiled later this year] – the structural funds are rolled into the new framework, insufficient attention will be given to not-for-profit research for the benefit of the public sector, rather than for-profit industry; that not enough emphasis will be placed on health care and prevention of chronic diseases, rather than their treatment."
Call for action on pain
Another group meeting for a symposium in the European Parliament this week – the European Federation of the International Association for the Study of Pain – published a seven-point call for action on the institutions to raise the awareness of chronic pain across the continent.
It also included demands for pain research to be a priority of FP8, and the establishment of an EU platform for the exchange, comparison and benchmarking of best practices between member states on pain management.
Irish centre-right MEP Jim Higgins told the symposium that he intended to get the action plan adopted as a formal written declaration of the European Parliament.