Fighting obesity in children from European World Health Organization member states. Epidemiological data, medical-social aspects, and prevention programs
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health chal-lenges of this century. Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.
In the WHO European Region one child out of 3, is overweight or obese. Over 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood. Children and adolescents, aged 5-19 have shown rising obesity rates in almost all nations, including where the situation was far from alarming 40 years ago. Several nations have seen the prevalence almost double: Israel has gone from 5.8% in 1975 to 11.9% in 2016, Andorra from 6.2% to 12.8%, and Malta from 7.4% to 13.4%.
Analyzing overweight and obesity, we can see that they follow similar trends and patterns. In 1975 the majority of European countries had a prevalence less than 10% and obesity less than 5%, while no European country had overweight prevalence higher than 30% and obe-sity higher than 10%. In 2016 the trend reversed, showing a worrying increase in the number of European countries with a high prevalence of overweight (over 30%) and obesity (over 10%) (Fig. 1)(29).
Starting from the analysis of epidemiological data on obesity in the WHO European Region, the paper analyzes the adopted prevention programs in order to assess their effectiveness and figure out the best strategies to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity.
The WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative reported that children tend to overeat and not to do enough physical exercise.
Different preventive programs have identified different areas of action and corresponding measures: consumption of healthy foods, physical exercise, care before conception and during pregnancy, early childhood, school age children, weight management, monitoring and evaluation.
Primary prevention is essential to reduce obesity incidence: it is easier to act on the adoption of healthy eating habits than intervene with diets on children who already have weight issues. Working on pre-vention programs represents an investment for the future of children’s health. By simply acting on prevention, particularly on body weight reduction, it could be possible to tackle the spreading of correlated di-seases. Therefore, prevention programs ought to be prioritized priority at a national and international level.