The WHO Global Database on Body Mass Index (BMI) was developed as part of WHO's commitment to implementing the recommendations of the WHO Expert Consultation on Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic (Geneva, 3-5 June 1997)1, which identified the lack of nationally representative cross-sectional data as an obstacle for facilitating international comparisons of adulthood obesity rates, monitoring the magnitude of the current and future obesity problems, and evaluating the effectiveness of intervention strategies.

The Department of Nutrition for Health and Development (NHD) initially developed the WHO Global Database on BMI to provide a systematic collation of available nationally representative and sub-national adult overweight and obesity data. These are reported in a standardized manner using WHO recommended BMI cut-off points1,2 to produce internationally comparable results.

During the last four years, the database has evolved in close collaboration with Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), as a global interactive surveillance tool to monitor nutrition transition covering and reporting on the entire spectrum of adult nutritional status. Currently efforts are being made to undertake a systematic collection of nationally representative studies that also include underweight. This unique surveillance system also incorporates food availability data from FAOSTAT Database, thereby providing a valuable contribution to an on-going Inter-Agency work on monitoring food insecurity and vulnerability which was developed as follow-up to the World Food Summit (Rome, 1996). The Dietary Energy Supply (DES) data are displayed in conjunction with the BMI data on the maps and in the charts. DES figures are produced by FAO based on Food Balance Sheets (FBS).

1. WHO. Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series 894. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2000.
2. WHO. Physical status: the use and interpretation of anthropometry. Report of a WHO Expert Committee. WHO Technical Report Series 854. Geneva, World Health Organization 1995.

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