WHO publishes evaluation of the Turkish Healthy Nutrition and Active Life Programme

Turkey has taken significant steps to combat obesity and promote a healthy diet and active lifestyle over the last decade. After hosting the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity in 2006, Turkey established the Healthy Nutrition and Active Life Programme 2010–2014. In 2016, WHO was invited by the Turkish Government to assess progress in tackling obesity, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. The report of this evaluation presents the main findings and recommendations, highlighting notable achievements, opportunities for further improvement and guidance for action in the coming years.

To perform the assessment, a group of international and national experts undertook a qualitative evaluation during a mission to Turkey in 2016. This included interviews with key informants in health and other sectors in Ankara, and field visits to 3 provinces (Eskisehir, Konya and Afyonkarahisar). The group considered not only the overall population impact but also the distribution of impact(s) according to age, gender and indicators of socioeconomic status, such as level of education, wealth and urban or rural residence. The dual focus of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which the aims and objectives of the Programme had been met and whether the action taken was consistent with international evidence, recommendations and guidance.

The evaluation found that Turkey has invested significantly to achieve the overall aim of the Programme, notably increasing population knowledge and the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits. Highlights include Turkey’s investment to increase physical activity; its emphasis on leading by example with government activities to change diet and level of activity; and its focus on health-promoting settings such as schools, primary care and newly established healthy living centres. Structural and environmental changes, such as the construction of cycling paths, have also been made so as to increase the number of physically active people.

In order to successfully continue and extend the good work in the coming years, the expert group made 4 primary recommendations. These will assist the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Institute in prioritizing actions in the short term.

  1. Conduct a systematic documentation of actions and activities implemented to identify any major gaps remaining.
  2. Use the WHO European food and nutrition action plan 2015–2020 and the Physical activity strategy for the WHO European Region 2016–2025 to inform future programmes, policies and actions.
  3. Ensure monitoring and evaluation is routinely part of the policy cycle, including necessary surveillance data, mapping of food and built environments and evaluation of policies/projects.
  4. Undertake a rapid, equity-focused health impact assessment of any future programme and action plan.