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WHO begins subregional policy dialogues to combat obesity

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WHO launches series of policy dialogues to tackle obesity in the WHO European Region. These subregional events will bring together countries from the Western Balkans, Central Asia and other parts of the Region to learn from national experience and find new ways to prevent an obesity epidemic.

Obesity is often considered one of the greatest threats to public health in the 21st century. According to recent WHO data, 59% of adults in the European Region are either overweight or obese. This rate is higher than in any other WHO region except the Americas.

1 in 3 children living with overweight or obesity

“Childhood overweight and obesity is a burning problem; In our region, one in three children lives with this disease, so it is very important that national health systems are ready to meet this challenge,” said Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, acting head of the WHO European Office for prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCD Bureau).

Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in the Region and are linked to many NCDs such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Recent estimates suggest that this causes more than 1.2 million deaths per year.

Today, none of the 53 countries in the Region are able to stem the rise in obesity levels by 2025.

“We need to approach the problem from multiple angles, helping countries not only prevent overweight and obesity, but also build capacity for better management. This is one way for us to contribute to the vision of the WHO European Program of Work 2020-2025, which is to ensure better health for all,” continued Dr Wickramasinghe.

Policy dialogues on obesity prevention

Policy dialogues provide an open platform for key health sector stakeholders from sub-regions to come together and consider next steps in implementing evidence-based policy interventions to combat ‘obesity.

The political dialogue on the Western Balkans was launched in Skopje, North Macedonia, at a high-level event attended by Elizabeta Gjorgievska, First Lady of North Macedonia, and Bekim Sali, the country’s Minister of Health.

The policy dialogue in Central Asia began in Kyrgyzstan with the presentation of a new report based on the latest data from the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative collected in the country.

“The WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative is the largest initiative of its kind. Our goal now is to use the data to accelerate action at the national level, to advance the fight against obesity over the next decade. These policy dialogues aim to take some of the first steps in this direction,” said Dr Wickramasinghe.

Dr Nino Berdzuli, Director of the Division of Country Health Programs at WHO/Europe, added: “Through the NCD Advisory Board, we are organizing a flagship initiative on childhood obesity. This initiative provides an important platform for advocacy, leadership and gathering political support to help us meet this challenge.

Learn from country experiences

Alongside discussions on policy measures, WHO is organizing train-the-trainer courses and developing materials to build the capacity of health workers in the management of childhood obesity.

“WHO policy dialogues followed by capacity building workshops will enable countries in the Western Balkans and Central Asia to use their local experience as a basis for new practices in obesity prevention and management,” explained Dr. Maria Joao Gregorio, director of the Portuguese National Program for the Promotion of Healthy Eating, which runs training courses in the two sub-regions.

Dr Gregorio added: “Such formats provide us with a unique opportunity to find the most effective country-tailored approaches to tackling the obesity epidemic, which will benefit the entire WHO European Region. »

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