58.7% of adults and 29.5% of children in the WHO European Region are overweight or obese. Italian adults on average, but for children it is alarm: 42% with weight outside the norm

by Ester Maragò

The condition obesity is the most important factor for disability and death. And for some countries in the European region, overtaking smoking is expected to be a major risk factor for preventable cancer in the coming decades. The prevalence of overweight and obese Italian children between 5 and 9 years of age reaches 42% (the average in the European region of 29.5%), and the prevalence of obesity is 17.8% against a European average of 11 , 6. THE REPORT

58.7% of adults and 29.5% of children in the WHO European Region are overweight or obese.  Italian adults on average, but for children it is alarm: 42% with weight outside the norm

03 MAY

A global non-communicable epidemic of large proportions, which the WHO considers to be one of the most serious health problems. Obesity is the 21st century sword of Damocles, a major risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In the WHO European Region (52 states), 58.7% of adults (62.9% men and 54.3% women) and 29.5% of children live under conditions of overweight and obesity. 5 and 9 years (32.1% of men and 26.6% of women)). And rates are growing. Recent estimates also suggest that they are the fourth most common risk factor for non-communicable diseases in the region, after hypertension, food hazards and tobacco. Not only that, obesity is also the main determinant of disability, the cause of 13 different cancers and is associated with greater morbidity and mortality from Covid-19.

Dark scenarios therefore, especially in Italy, where overweight and obesity hit especially the little ones. If, after all, the adult Italian population adopts a healthier lifestyle than in other states, it does not protect the little ones. The prevalence of overweight and obese children between the ages of 5 and 9 is 42% (the source of the average 29.5% in the WHO European Region), and the prevalence of obesity is 17.8% against a European average of 11.6 .

This is the picture takenWHO in European Regional Report on Obesity 2022 which examines the growing challenge and impact of obesity in the European region. The report, which builds on previous publications and is in line with initiatives to combat cancer, focuses on managing obesity throughout the life course and on the fight against obesity environments; is also considering recent challenges, including problematic digital marketing for children and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the prevalence of obesity. Above all, it warns of the serious health risks associated with the rise in obesity levels and therefore proposes ad hoc actions to the states of the European region to stem the epidemic. Restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, taxing sugary drinks and improving the response of the health system to obesity management are currently among the most actively discussed policy areas in the WHO’s European region.

“Obesity knows no bounds. In Europe and Central Asia, no single country will meet the WHO Global Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) targets to stop the rise in obesity, he said. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO’s Regional Director for Europe – the countries in our region are incredibly different, but all are challenged. By creating more enabling environments, promoting investment and innovation in health and developing strong and robust health systems, we can change the obesity path in the region ”.

The scenarios

Obesity can outweigh smoking as a significant preventable cancer risk. Obesity and obesity rank fourth as a risk factor for death from hypertension, food hazards and tobacco. Obesity is a complex multifactorial disease that poses a health risk and is associated with many non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. For some countries in the European region, obesity is expected to overtake smoking as a major risk factor for cancer that can be prevented in the coming decades. The report also highlights that obesity is a condition, not just a risk factor that needs to be treated and managed specifically.

WHO European Region: obesity and overweight trend
According to the report, the prevalence of obesity in adults in the European region is higher than in any other WHO region except the Americas region. Recent figures show that overweight and obesity cause more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide each year, but even these figures may be underestimated. In the European region, overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions, with prevalence levels higher among men (63%) than women (54%). Prices tend to be higher in higher income countries.

The highest levels of overweight and obesity are found in the Mediterranean and Eastern European countries. Educational inequalities are widespread, with a higher incidence of obesity found in people with a lower level of education.

Focus on Italy
Light and shadows on our land appear from the report. Adult Italians are actually more virtuous than adults in the 52 countries considered, but it is not so good with children. The 2016 prevalence data, which refer to overweight and obesity, among Italian adults accounted for 58.6% (65.3 men and 51.5 women), and therefore they are in line with the European average (58.7) and those who relates to obesity alone, even more comforting: 19.9% ​​(20.1 men and 19.5 women) against the European average of 23.6% (21.8 men and 24.5 women).

The scenarios are changed by analyzing prevalence data among school-age children (5-9 years). In the ranking of the worst WHO regions in Europe, Italy ranks first: the overall average of overweight and obese children is expected to be 42% (44.7 men and 39.2 women), far from that in the European region equivalent to 29 , 5 (32.1 men) and 26.6 women). Then we share the black jersey with Greece for overweight children: 17.8% (20.5 men and 14.9 women) against a European average of 11.6 (14 men and 9.1 women).

The rankings change slightly if we look at the collected prevalence data by age (7-9 years). fromEuropean Children’s Obesity Surveillance Initiative (Thus): the percentage of overweight and obesity in Italy is 41.9% among children, with worst-case scenarios in Cyprus, Greece and Spain, and 38.5 among girls (Cyprus and Spain are worse off). On the other hand, 21% of Italian boys and 14% of girls are overweight. Just ahead of us are the male children in Cyprus (21.5%), while the Cypriot, Greek, Spanish and Malta girls have a higher percentage of obesity than the Italians.

Covid-19 and the problem of obesity
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the obesity problem even more urgent. In fact, patients with obesity are more likely to have complications and death from the virus, and many of these patients have experienced interruptions in access to obesity management services. Preliminary data also suggest that people during the current pandemic had increased exposure to obesity risk factors, including an increase in sedentary lifestyles and consumption of unhealthy foods.

Creating healthy environments: WHO recommendations to governments
“Obesity is affected by the environment, so it is important to look at this problem by analyzing it at all stages of life. For example, the lives of children and young people are affected by digital environments, including the marketing of unhealthy food and drink, “he said. Kremlin Wickramasinghand Acting Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, which prepared the 2022 Obesity Report.

“We have learned over time that a single political action will not work. To be successful as a country or region, we need a complete package of interventions. No single country has been able to implement all the necessary policies at the same time. It is important to prioritize 2 or 3 policies that need to be implemented immediately and have a feasible plan to implement the rest of the interventions – Wickramasinghe added – to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, the taxation of sugary foods beverages and the improvement of responses. of the obesity management health care system is currently among the most actively discussed policy areas in the WHO European Region ”.

Esther Marago

May 3, 2022
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