A number of WHO/Europe programmes contribute to reversing the obesity epidemic in Europe, including those focusing on physical activity and diet, but also on socioeconomic determinants, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and child and adolescent health. A selection of activities is presented below.
Monitoring progress and sharing good practice
WHO/Europe supports activities at country and international level to implement the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015-2020. For this purpose, action networks have been set up consisting of groups of Member States that have taken the lead in addressing particular challenges, such as reducing salt intake and reducing marketing pressure on children. The action network on childhood obesity surveillance is responsible for the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) established in 2007 to provide regular and comparable data on overweight and obesity among primary schoolchildren. Selected schools in participating countries gather data according to a common agreed protocol containing core items and consisting of national representative samples. Data is analysed at both the country level for the national coordinating centre and the European level.
The first official WHO report on the implementation of COSI during two data collection rounds (school years 2007/2008 and 2009/2010) in 16 participating countries was released in 2014. The report uses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) technique to evaluate COSI implementation and describes the experiences gained, the challenges encountered and the obstacles overcome by participating countries.
An additional four countries (Albania, Republic of Moldova, Romania and Turkey) joined the third data collection round, which took place during the school year 2012/2013. The fourth COSI round is planned for the school year 2015/2016.
A WHO/European Commission Joint collaboration monitored progress from 2008 to 2010 regarding improving nutrition and physical activity and preventing obesity in the WHO European Region. Each Member State provides information and confirms data about their country on a regular basis to assist WHO in implementing the project. This collated information is available through various workshop reports, the WHO European Database on Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity (NOPA Database) and the November 2010 report "Current Implementation status of the Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues".
Support to policy-makers
At the WHO Ministerial Conference on Nutrition and Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) in the context of Health 2020, held in Vienna, Austria, 2013, ministers of health, key partners and experts met to face the challenges posed by the burden and threat of NCDs and important NCD risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, with particular reference to the rapid rise of overweight and obesity in children. The resulting Vienna Declaration focused on a number of key issues related to NCDs and included a revisit to the European Charter on Counteracting Obesity- the Istanbul Charter- in the field of nutrition especially- in order to strengthen and revitalize the charter to tackle the obesity epidemic in the European Region.
WHO/Europe also hosts the European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA Europe), which works towards physical activity promotion in health policy and in other relevant sectors in Europe.