Over two billion people – approximately 30% of the world’s population – are overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. In 2015, 4 million deaths were attributed to being overweight or obesity, representing a 30% increase since 1990.

Obesity is no longer a problem exclusive to high-income countries – over 60% of all obese individuals live in low- and middle-income countries. Unless obesity is urgently addressed, it will increase premature mortality and undermine economic development.

The good news is that the problem is preventable. We are supporting the enactment and evaluation of policy efforts that aim to reduce and prevent obesity in cities and countries around the world.


Building on our extensive experience in tobacco control, Bloomberg Philanthropies is playing a similar role by supporting civil society organizations and research institutions to promote policies that reduce consumer demand for unhealthy foods and beverages, improve the food environment, and make healthier choices easier for everyone. Based on the best-available evidence, policies that could have the most impact include:

  • Raising taxes on sugary beverages and junk food
  • Limiting children’s and adolescents’ exposure to unhealthy food and beverage marketing through comprehensive marketing bans
  • Promoting healthy food policies for the public sector, especially schools
  • Introducing understandable and informative front-of-package nutrition labels
  • Developing healthy food policy advocacy campaigns

Bloomberg Philanthropies identifies governments and top research and advocacy organizations that have a demonstrated commitment to improving the food environment and augments their efforts through the provision of resources and technical assistance. Our locations of focus are Brazil, the Caribbean (Jamaica & Barbados), Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States. All of these countries have high rates of overweight and obese populations, and all are taking action.

Our program also invests in rigorous evaluation of these policies once implemented. Ultimately, effective policies can be replicated in cities, states, and countries around the world.

In addition to these countries, we support the evaluation of other promising policies in low- and middle-income countries around the world. For example, researchers are examining the impact of Chile’s law that requires front-of-package warning labels on unhealthy foods and beverages, puts limits on how those foods can be marketed, and restricts them from schools.

Our food policy program work in the United States is part of the American Cities Initiative, a suite of investments that empower cities to generate innovation and advance policy that moves the nation forward.