WMA Statement on the Physician's Role in Obesity

Adopted by the 57th WMA General Assembly, Pilanesberg, South Africa, October 2006
and revised by the 67th WMA General Assembly, Taipei, Taiwan, October 2016 


Obesity is one of the single most important health issues facing the world in the twenty-first century, affecting all countries and socio-economic groups and representing a serious drain on health care resources.

Obesity in children is of increasing concern and is emerging as a growing epidemic in itself.

Obesity has complex origins linked to economic and social changes in society including the obeso-genic environment within which much of the population lives.

Therefore the WMA urges physicians to use their roles as leaders to advocate for recognition by national health authorities that reduction in obesity should be a priority, with culturally and age appropriate policies involving physicians and other key stakeholders. 


  • Lead the development of societal changes that emphasize environments which support healthy food choices and regular exercise or physical activity for all people, with a specific focus on children;
  • Individually and through medical associations, express concern that excessive television viewing and video game playing are impediments to physical activity among children and adolescents in many countries;
  • Encourage individuals to make healthy choices and guide parents in helping their children to do so;
  • Recognise the role of personal decision making and the adverse influences exerted by current environments;
  • Recognise that collection and evaluation of data can contribute to evidence based management, and should be part of routine medical screening and evaluation throughout life;
  • Encourage the development of life skills that contribute to a healthy lifestyle in all persons and to better public knowledge of healthy diets, exercise and the dangers of smoking and excess alcohol consumption;
  • Advocate for appropriately trained professionals to be placed in educational facilities, highlighting the importance of education on healthy lifestyles from an early age;
  • Contribute to the development of better assessment tools and databases to enable better targeted and evaluated interventions;
  • Ensure that obesity, its causes and management remain part of continuing professional development programmes for health care workers, including physicians;
  • Use pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery consistent with evidence-based guidelines and an assessment of the risks and benefits associated with such therapies.