Downward trend in overweight and obesity among Portuguese school children


Portugal recently published a report on their 4th round of data collection as part of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI), finding evidence of a downward trend in overweight and obesity between 2008 and 2016.

The COSI system monitors the prevalence of overweight and obesity among school-aged children and produces high-quality data in participating countries every 2–3 years. It also monitors the diet and physical habits of school aged-children, as well as their school and family environments. Portugal was part of the first group of countries involved with COSI and has participated in each of the 4 data collection rounds held since 2008.

The COSI Portugal 4th round of data collection found that, from 2008 to 2016, childhood overweight decreased by 7.2% and obesity by 3.6%. It also found that physical activity levels increased between 2008 and 2016. While these findings are encouraging, the prevalence of overweight (30.7%) and obesity (11.7%) remain high in Portugal, and sedentary behaviours have increased, mainly due to the increased time spent playing computer games. In addition, healthy eating habits have not improved. Much remains that can be done to reduce the number of children that are overweight or obese and at risk of the many associated poor health outcomes.

These results demonstrate the need for ongoing surveillance to provide the necessary information for policy-makers to identify what works to encourage healthy eating and promote physical activity. The first round of COSI data collection raised the alarm and many countries have since taken action to tackle the epidemic of childhood overweight and obesity. However, more must be done and preventive measures designed to regulate the type of foods available in schools, limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and create school environments that enable children to be active throughout the day.

The results of the 4th round of COSI Portugal are now officially available for public consultation in Portuguese.