December 2017 special issue – Deadline for submission: 31-05-2017

Public Health Panorama calls for the submission of papers for a special issue on obesity and unhealthy diets in the WHO European Region. This will be published in December 2017 and will focus on innovative policy and practice from across the European Region. As the midway point in the implementation of the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020 approaches, the special issue offers an opportunity to reflect upon lessons learnt, explore some of challenges and consider novel approaches to drive further progress in the coming years.

Turning the tide on obesity and unhealthy diets in the Region

Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is a core priority of WHO and its Member States. These diseases are currently the leading cause of death and disability in the WHO European Region, responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined and strongly driven by modifiable risk factors. Excess body weight (body mass index (BMI) >25) and excessive consumption of energy, saturated fats, trans fats, salt and free sugars are the leading risk factors alongside persistently low consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. In Europe, overweight and obesity are highly prevalent across all age groups. For example, the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative has shown that in some countries almost 50% of 8-year-old boys are overweight and more than 25% are obese. These statistics drive the imperative to develop effective policies to promote healthy eating and prevent weight gain across the life-course.

In the WHO European Region, Member States adopted the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020 with a view to dramatically reducing the impact of malnutrition in all its forms – including diet-related NCDs, overweight and obesity – and minimizing the burden of preventable disease. The Action Plan made comprehensive recommendations to promote healthier diets and reduce the intake of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fats, trans fats, salt and/or free sugars. It encouraged Member States to take comprehensive action in a range of policy areas through a whole-of-government approach. In particular, it called on Member States to:

  • create healthy food and drink environments
  • promote the gains of a healthy diet throughout life
  • reinforce health systems to promote health diets
  • support surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and research
  • strengthen governance, alliances and networks to ensure a health-in-all-policies approach.

The December 2017 special issue of Public Health Panorama aligns with these five objectives. It also calls for consideration of the following guiding principles, identified by Member States as critical to any efforts to promote healthier diets and prevent weight gain:

  • reduce inequalities in access to healthier foods
  • ensure human rights and the right to food
  • empower people and communities through health-enhancing environments
  • promote a life-course approach
  • use evidence-based strategies.

As highlighted in the Action Plan, governments can make a significant contribution to improving the diets of their populations through changes to the wider environment and contexts in which daily food choices are made; such changes will influence the way in which foods are promoted, their availability, affordability and nutritional composition. Similarly, there are opportunities at every stage of the life-course to improve nutritional status and maximize impact. For example, acting early to protect and promote breastfeeding for infants or ensure healthy school food can help people start life on the right trajectory.

Call for papers

Against this backdrop and with the aim of supporting governments at various levels in their efforts towards the full implementation of the Action Plan through effective policies, Public Health Panorama invites papers that take an evidence-informed approach and examine issues relevant to the WHO European Region, such as:

  • surveillance and monitoring in the Region (e.g. anthropometry, dietary intake)
  • innovations in nutrition- and food-based guidelines
  • maternal nutrition, infant and young child feeding
  • nutritional composition of foods and food product reformulation efforts
  • front-of-pack labelling for food products
  • trans fats elimination
  • use of price policies to promote healthier diets
  • food marketing to children
  • integrating nutrition and obesity in people-centred health care
  • cross-government collaboration to facilitate healthier diets (e.g. education, agriculture)
  • addressing inequalities and the special needs of vulnerable groups (e.g. older people)
  • use of law to promote healthier diets
  • food supply chain solutions to promote healthier diets
  • monitoring policy impact and modelling future scenarios.

Guidelines for submitting papers

Public Health Panorama invites papers that showcase examples and research results from the WHO European Region and beyond intended for policy-makers, planners, researchers, public health specialists, clinicians, educators, civil society and other interest groups working on food and nutrition-related issues. Priority will be given to papers that describe outcome-oriented approaches, successful practices, innovative solutions and lessons learned. In particular, papers that document experiences in low-resource and transitional economies are sought and welcomed. Manuscripts may be submitted in either English or Russian, and accepted papers will be published in both languages.

The deadline for submission is 31 May 2017. Authors should follow the guidelines for submission of manuscripts to Public Health Panorama and mention this call for papers in a covering letter. All submissions will undergo peer review. For further queries, please contact eupanorama@who.int