Europeans deserve tougher policies to protect their health

Ministry of Health, Turkey

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, receives award from Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, Minister of Health of Turkey, for WHO/Europe’s contribution to tobacco control in the country.

During a visit to Turkey on 4 June, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, focused on tobacco, obesity and physical inactivity. A national tobacco-control event was held in Ankara for World No Tobacco Day and to launch the national tobacco-control programme and action plan for Turkey for 2014–2018. As part of the event, the Turkish Minister of Health, Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, presented an award to the Regional Director for WHO/Europe’s exemplary contribution to tobacco-control work in Turkey.

Given the importance of an intersectoral approach to tobacco control, the Ministry of Health also recognized the contribution of individuals and institutions such as: the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the President of the Turkish Council of State, the ministers of the interior and finance, politicians (including governors and mayors), an artist, a journalist, members of the executive board of the national tobacco-control committee, academics, public health directors of selected provinces, schools and teachers, international experts, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local inspection teams of the ministries of health and the interior, including members of the police and Gendarmerie.

“Turkey is one of the global leaders in tobacco control. The decrease in adult smoking prevalence, by 13.4% from 2008 to 2012, is a result of strong leadership and the implementation of comprehensive tobacco-control policies. Today’s event is the best illustration of the whole-of-government approach,” said the Regional Director in her keynote address. “Europe is moving in the right direction, but progress since 2007 has not been sufficient to protect the health of the European people as they deserve and to support tougher policies. Full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control throughout the WHO European Region is paramount.”

Earlier on 4 June, the Regional Director participated in an event called “Healthy Life Walking” with the Minister of Health, Professor Seçil Özkan, President of the Ministry’s Public Health Institution, high-level authorities from other ministries, schoolchildren and representatives of the mass media.

Low physical activity

Low rates of physical activity, leading to a high burden of disease, are another strong concern in the European Region. Two thirds of the adult population in the European Union does not reach recommended levels of activity, and the trend is towards less activity, not more. Physical inactivity has become one of the leading risks to health: It contributes to 1 million deaths (about 10% of the total) in the Region. Rising rates of physical inactivity among children and adolescents are particularly alarming: Only 34% of European young people (13–15 years) are active enough to meet current guidelines, and more than two thirds spend two hours or more per day watching television. Turkey is no exception, having high rates of adult and childhood obesity.