Health ministers call for action to combat diet-related noncommunicable diseases
Copenhagen and Vienna, 4 July 2013
More than 25 ministers of health have come together in Vienna, Austria to address the role of nutrition in combating noncommunicable diseases in the WHO European Region. The WHO European Ministerial Conference on Nutrition and Noncommunicable Diseases in the context of Health 2020 is a response to obesity and poor nutrition, which play a huge role in noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.
At the opening of the Conference, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, appealed to individuals, industry and governments: “I urge ministers of health to work with other sectors to implement policies that can make a difference. I urge all stakeholders in the food industry to act responsibly and do their part by adjusting product formulations to make a positive contribution to health, labelling foods clearly and meaningfully, and not marketing those high in saturated and trans fats, free sugars and salt to children. Lastly, I advise citizens to try to reduce their intake of fat, sugar and salt and increase that of fruit and vegetables in their diets. Consumers should read the labels on their food, and choose consciously and responsibly on the basis of public health advice. Huge progress has been made in the last 30 years in other areas of public health, such as tobacco control. It’s time to apply the same commitment to fighting the obesity epidemic.”
Region-wide weight problem
Obesity is rising across the European Region and a particular concern among children. One third of the Region’s children and half of its adults are estimated to be overweight or obese. A host of short- and long-term problems is associated with obesity, such as mobility problems, low self-esteem and increased risks of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes; further:
- 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood;
- obesity accounts for 2–7% of health costs in some countries, and even higher indirect costs in lost productivity;
- in western Europe, children from lower-income families are more likely to be obese;
- if action is not taken, the prevalence of overweight in some countries will reach 90% by 2030.
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