Monthly Barometer

For many years the world has been waging a “war on obesity” with precious little success. This week Malleret argues that habits look to be changing …slowly. For instance, the president of Coca-Cola North America recently spoke about the “secular decline in carbonated soft drinks,” observing that, “health and wellness is a major enduring trend.” And Mexico City (in a country where 70 percent of adults are overweight) is getting creative: Do 10 squats at a metro or bus station, and you get a ticket for a free ride, an anti-stress ball, pedometer or pack of condoms.


As hard as it is to implement policies that combat that great global problem, deflation, it is equally difficult to fight against one of the main causes of “un-wellness.” For many years now, and drawing on a wide-ranging armoury—scientific reports, documentaries, government announcements, efforts to nudge, regulatory measures, etc.—much of the world has been waging a “war on obesity” but with little success.

In the U.S. for example, the most comprehensive recent data (from the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) found that sixty-eight million Americans qualified as obese, and sixty-five million more were overweight. Smaller but more recent studies show no easing of these numbers, which clearly amount to a public-health crisis.

However, habits and consumption patterns are starting to change, slowly... A few weeks ago, Alexander Douglas, the president of Coca-Cola North America, talked about the “secular decline in carbonated soft drinks,” observing that: “Health and wellness is a major enduring trend.”

In a different context, Mexico City, where the next Global Wellness Summit is taking place in November, offers an interesting example of a “nudge.” Since January of this year, the city’s Secretary of Health has experimented in subway and bus stops with health stations that reward passengers for performing a mini-workout. The goal is to promote a healthier lifestyle and curb obesity in a country where 70 percent of adults are overweight and 30 percent are obese. Mexico also “leads” the world in childhood obesity, with 35 percent of adolescent overweight or obese.

Using a motion sensor, the stations ask passengers to complete squats. When someone performs 10 consecutive squats, the machine issues a ticket, which can be exchanged for a free subway or Metrobus ticket within Mexico City, an anti-stress ball, pedometer or a pack of condoms. At the time of the Summit, it will be interesting to ask the authorities whether the early results are promising or not!


Malleret is managing partner of the Monthly Barometer - a succinct predictive newsletter provided to private investors and decision-makers. Previously, he founded two companies that he sold, founded the Global Risk Network at the WEF, and was in charge of the Davos Annual event. His other professional experience includes: investment banking (London and Moscow), think tanks and academia (New York and Oxford) and government (in the French PM’s office). Thierry has written a dozen books, and he holds two MAs and a PhD in Economics.

The Wellness Edition of his Monthly Barometer is written exclusively for the Global Wellness Institute. For a copy of the full report each month, join the GWI as a Member or Ambassador.

AuthorThierry Malleret, Economist and Founder, Monthly Barometer