Representatives of southern European countries meeting in Athens to seek ways to reduce child obesity

Child obesity
Photo credit: Anadolu Agency

Representatives and experts from southern European countries including Türkiye are meeting in Athens, Greece to map out a way to reduce childhood obesity, which can lead to many noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday, Anadolu Agency reports. 

Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain and Türkiye are meeting on June 18 and 19 at an event organized by the WHO Athens Office on Quality of Care and Patient Safety.

"For many southern European countries, the prevalence of overweight and obesity, especially childhood obesity, is still among the highest in the region," said Dr. Kremlin Wickramasinghe, WHO regional adviser for Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity.

"In some parts of southern Europe, nearly half of boys live with overweight or obesity, and this puts them at risk of developing noncommunicable diseases later in life," he said.

The two-day event is in collaboration with the WHO/Europe Special Initiative for Noncommunicable Diseases and Innovation (SNI) and the Ministry of Health of Greece, as well as with country representatives and leading health experts.

They were to discuss evidence-based policies that can tackle the problem of overweight and obesity.

The WHO said obesity and overweight are significant health risks for southern Europe.

According to the latest WHO data, 59% of adults in the WHO European Region currently live with overweight or obesity, the highest rate globally outside the Americas.

-1 in 3 children overweight

Even more concerning is the statistic that one in three children in the region live with overweight or obesity.

"Unfortunately, these figures are a stark contradiction to our country's rich tradition of healthy eating and constitute an urgent call to reevaluate our approach on this issue," stressed Adonis Georgiadis, Greece's Minister of Health.

Overweight and obesity rank fourth as a risk factor for death after high blood pressure, dietary risks and tobacco, said the WHO.

Obesity-associated health threats contribute to over 1.2 million deaths in the WHO European Region annually.

"WHO/Europe has a strong legacy of taking action to address even the most challenging problems, including obesity, diseases later in life," said Dr. Joao Breda, head of the WHO/Europe Athens Office.

He said one of the critical areas for innovation is in improving the quality of care for the millions of children and adults in the European region living with overweight and obesity.

"This meeting in Athens is a matter of utmost necessity as we confront an issue that threatens the future, vitality and health of our nation's children," said Georgiadis.

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