3 ministers join in call to action to promote healthy lifestyles for children in Turkey

Public Health Institute, Ministry of Health, Turkey

Key findings of a major childhood obesity study conducted in Turkey and 20 other countries in the European Region in 2013 indicate that only approximately 7–8 out of 10 children in the country are within normal limits in terms of children’s BMI Z-score values. Conversely 23.3% of boys and 21.6% of girls are overweight or obese, and 2.2% of boys and 1.9% of girls are thin or severely thin.

The study also found that fresh fruit is distributed in only 9.7% of Turkish schools in the study and fresh vegetables in only 8.3% of the schools. 66.2% of the schools perform healthy living activities and 63.4% offer sports activities for all students.    

The third round of the European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) survey conducted with the support of WHO/Europe in Turkey reached 5101 students attending second grade in 216 schools located in 67 provinces across the country.

COSI

The COSI study aims to monitor the growth of school age children and compare the data across European countries. Within the scope of this survey, the children’s height and body mass index are measured and parents are asked to fill out a questionnaire about their child’s nutrition and physical activity behaviours.

The survey in Turkey was carried out in collaboration with the Public Health Institution of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Education and Hacettepe University Public Health Institute within the framework of WHO/Europe criteria.  

Intersectoral cooperation to address children’s health needs in Turkey

Results of the COSI study were launched on 9 June 2014 in Ankara, Turkey. with the participation of Health Minister Dr Mehmet Müezzinoğlu; Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Mr M. Mehdi Eker; Deputy National Education Minister Mr Orhan Erdem; Head of Turkish Grand National Assembly Health, Family, Labor and Social Affairs Commission Prof Dr Necdet Ünüvar, Rector of Hacettepe University Professor A. Murat Tuncer, President of Public Health Institution of Turkey Professor Seçil Özkan; Dr Joao Breda WHO/Europe Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Programme Manager and Dr Maria Cristina Profili, WHO representative in Turkey.

Mr Mehdi Eker stated that the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock is working in collaboration with other sectors to develop healthy nutrition habits and announced a mandatory reduction in the amount of salt used in tomato paste, olives and cheese starting in August.

Minister of Health Dr Mehmet Müezzinoğlu underlined the importance of role models to achieve behavioural change in children. He also stated that the Ministry has declared 2014 as “Obesity Prevention Year” and is organizing events in coordination with the Provincial Public Health Directorates. The Obesity Prevention Action Plan developed by the Ministry of Health will support all relevant sectors in this effort.