6th meeting of WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI)

Harry Rutter

Fifteen Member States in the WHO European Region were present at the sixth meeting on the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). The participating countries presented their plans for the implementation of the third COSI data collection round for the school year 2012/2013. While some countries (Italy, Latvia, Norway) will have finalized data collection by the end of this year, the remaining countries will start data collection during spring 2013. The socioeconomic gradient and childhood obesity was also a point of discussion and will become one of the main topics of a planned intercountry COSI publication in the near future.

The sixth COSI meeting was convened in Oslo, Norway on 8-9 November 2012 and hosted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Earlier meetings with COSI Principal Investigators of the participating countries and Members of the COSI Advisory Board took place in Paris, France (5–6 June 2007), Maceira, Portugal (13–14 December 2007), Copenhagen, Denmark (3–4 June 2009), Rome, Italy (8–10 February 2010) and in Lisbon, Portugal (5–6 July 2011).


During the first data collection round (school year 2007/2008) the highest overweight prevalence values were found in southern European countries. While stunting and underweight were not prevalent, 19.3-49.0% of boys and 18.4-42.5% of girls were found to be overweight (including obesity and based on the 2007 WHO growth reference). These results were recently published online in Pediatric Obesity.

As a followup to the 2006 Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity, the WHO Regional Office for Europe initiated COSI with 13 Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden.

Its aim is to fill the gap in longitudinal information on anthropometry in a nationally representative sample of primary-school children aged 6–9 years by routinely measuring their body weight and body height, using the same protocol. Four new countries (Greece, Hungary, Spain and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) participated in the second data collection round (school year 2009/2010) and an additional two countries (Albania and Romania) are planning to join the current third data collection round.

Future steps

It is assumed that more Member States of the WHO European Region will join by the time the fourth round is planned. In this way, it is expected that routinely measuring body weight and body height in primary-school children, based on a standardized methodology for sampling and data collection, as well as transferring the collected data to a national or international database, will become common activities in the WHO European Region for the monitoring of the progress and successes of counteracting overweight and obesity in this population group.