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First Ladies and Gentlemen of Europe rise to the challenge of childhood obesity

Obesity is among the top determinants of death and disability in the Region. Recognizing that this must be addressed as a burning health issue, a Summit of First Ladies and First Gentlemen of the WHO European Region was announced during the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.

The Summit will aim to establish a network of First Ladies and First Gentlemen to take the lead on advocating a multi-level approach and high-level political action to counter childhood obesity. The first summit will be co-hosted by Croatia and WHO/Europe.

Childhood obesity: many problems in one

Today, no single intervention alone can halt the obesity epidemic in the WHO European Region. “It is unacceptable that 1 in 3 children and almost 3 out of 5 adults in the Region, are living with overweight or obesity. This is a societal ill, for which we are paying far too high a price,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Dr Sanja Musić Milanović, the First Lady of Croatia, announced the inauguration of the Summit: “As an innovative approach, the Signature Initiative on childhood obesity of the WHO Regional Director’s Advisory Council on Innovation for Noncommunicable Diseases proposed a network of First Ladies/Gentlemen to raise this issue high on the political agenda. I am grateful and proud that as the First Lady I can use my position and use this occasion to officially announce the Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen on childhood obesity, which will be held in Croatia next year.”

“I believe that the Summit will be a unique opportunity to mobilize support and resources to scale up policy action, increase engagement, propose novel ways to bring new voices and ideas to the table, and disseminate knowledge and best practices.”

Dr Nino Berdzuli, Director of the Division of Country Health Programmes at WHO/Europe, highlighted that overweight and obesity developed early in life tracks into adulthood and puts our future generations at risk of developing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

“To be able to improve health in the Region, we have to change this course. We need to solve this challenging problem of childhood obesity. This is an ambitious goal, but I know that by working together, we can make real change,” added Dr Berdzuli.

Cause of 13 types of cancer

Obesity can have a long-lasting effect on our children’s health and become a cause of many life-threatening NCDs when they become grownups. We are talking not only about risks of at least 13 different cancer types, but also cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Childhood obesity can lead to mental health issues as well, preventing thousands of children from enjoying a happy life.

Reaching the target of zero growth in obesity and diabetes by 2025 is a priority that is echoed in the WHO European Programme of Work 2020–2025 and the “Implementation roadmap 2023–2030” for the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs.



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