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On World Obesity Day 2023 WHO/Europe highlights five trends concerning overweight and obesity among primary school-aged children in the European Region.
The WHO data used to identify trends come from the latest (fifth) round of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI), which took place between 2018 and 2020, and to which 33 countries contributed data. In total, almost 411
000 children were measured.
Fact one: every third child is living with overweight or obesity
Twenty-nine per cent of children aged 7–9 years in the countries collecting data for COSI round 5 were found to be living with overweight (including obesity, according to WHO definitions).
Fact two: overweight and obesity are more prominent among boys
Overall, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among boys is 31%, while among girls it is 28%.
In the 16 countries where COSI data were collected for more than one age group, the prevalence of obesity increased with age among boys.
Fact three: 75% of children eat breakfast every day
And only 3% of the same age group (6–9 years old) never do so.
This is good news as breakfast is an important element of a healthy diet reducing health risks related to overweight and obesity.
Fact four: less than half (43%) of children consume fresh fruit daily
And 1 in 10 children (11%) aged 6–9 years in the surveyed countries never ate vegetables or did so less than once a week.
Daily fruit and vegetable consumption is another significant part of a healthy diet.
Eating fruit and vegetables on a daily basis tended to be more common among children of parents with a high level of education than among children of parents with a lower level of education.
Fact five: only a few countries – those with the highest initial prevalence of overweight and obesity – show a decrease
Some countries that initially reported more than 40% of children living with obesity, based on data collected since before 2010, showed a decrease in COSI round 5 – including Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. However, in spite of a decrease
of 5–10 percentage points, prevalence of overweight and obesity remains high in these countries. A similar reduction was also observed in Slovenia, where the initial prevalence value for overweight was considerably lower (around 30%).
“We need better policies that create a new environment for children and grown-ups to choose better diets and lead active and healthy lives in every country of the WHO European Region,” said Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, ad interim Head of
the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, which produced the report.
“Both primary prevention and management of obesity are important components in our response. If we succeed, this response can not only reduce overweight and obesity levels, but also the burden of noncommunicable diseases (with cardiovascular
diseases, diabetes and cancer among them) that lead to 90% of all deaths in the Region.”
In 2023 WHO/Europe will organize a Summit of the Spouses of European Leaders on Childhood Obesity in Croatia that will aim to take the lead on advocating a multilevel approach and high-level political action to counter childhood obesity.
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