Effective policies for reducing childhood obesity in Poland

Poland is stepping up the fight against childhood obesity – a new report outlines effective policy actions

Childhood obesity is a growing global health problem, and Poland has not been spared. In the last 40 years the country has seen a slow but continuous increase in the prevalence of obese children.

In August 2016, the Minister of Health announced the implementation of the Polish National Health Programme 2016–2020. For the first time, fighting overweight and obesity was one of the strategic goals.

To facilitate the development of an integrated action plan to reduce childhood obesity, the WHO report Reducing childhood obesity in Poland by effective policies, was developed. It outlines possible policy actions to create an environment that encourages a shift towards a healthy diet and physical activity.

A choice between softer or more robust measures

The policy actions proposed in the report form the basis of an action plan that could be implemented in Poland to combat childhood obesity.

The report looks at 7 different areas, with a 2-step approach: a softer policy measure, offering solutions that require fewer resources and result in less significant changes to the current system; and a more robust and wide-reaching intervention that would require more effort or investment but would have a greater public health impact.

Looking at intake of healthy foods as an example, the softer measure is to restrict the availability of sugar-sweetened drinks in schools, while the stronger measure is to apply a tax on sugary drinks.

The 7 areas that the report looks at are: intake of healthy foods, physical activity, care before conception and during pregnancy, early childhood, school-age children, weight management, and monitoring and evaluation.

Advice for a complex problem

The aim of the report was to develop an approach that works within the national context and invites all stakeholders to not just formulate but also execute the policy. The approach needs to take inequality in health into account and be supported with sufficient human and financial capital.

A key point is that a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation process needs to be in place to offer insights for improvements.

Funding for the design of this publication was kindly provided by the Government of the Russian Federation in the context of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.