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Obes Facts. 2019;12(2):244-258. doi: 10.1159/000500436. Epub 2019 Apr 26.

Prevalence of Severe Obesity among Primary School Children in 21 European Countries.

Author information

1
Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Institute of Health), National Centre for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Rome, Italy, angela.spinelli@iss.it.
2
WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of the NCDs, Moscow, Russian Federation.
3
National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition, DG of Food and Nutrition Science, Budapest, Hungary.
4
Department of food studies, Nutrition and Dietetics, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
5
Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, North Macedonia.
6
State University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Chișinău, Moldova.
7
Faculty of Sport, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
8
Spanish Observatory of Nutrition and Study of Obesity, Madrid, Spain.
9
National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal.
10
Obesity Management Centre, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague, Czechia.
11
Primary Health Care, Floriana, Malta.
12
Department of Health and Inequality, Division of Mental and Physical Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
13
Department of Child Health and Development, Division of Mental and Physical Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
14
University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
15
Turkish Ministry of Health, Ankara, Turkey.
16
Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Riga, Latvia.
17
Department of Preventive Medicine, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Kaunas, Lithuania.
18
National Center of Public Health and Analyses, Sofia, Bulgaria.
19
Department of Food and Nutrition and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
20
Social Security Institute San Marino, San Marino, San Marino.
21
Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.
22
Institute of Public Health, Tirana, Albania.
23
National Institute of Public Health, Bucharest, Romania.
24
Semmelweis University, Karoly Racz School of PhD Studies, Budapest, Hungary.
25
Public Health Department, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey.
26
Health Authority San Marino, San Marino, San Marino.
27
Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Institute of Health), National Centre for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Rome, Italy.
28
Centre for Applied Obesity Research, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) was established more than 10 years ago to estimate prevalence and monitor changes in overweight and obesity in children aged 6-9 years. Since then, there have been five rounds of data collection in more than 40 countries involving more than half a million children. To date, no comparative studies with data on severe childhood obesity from European countries have been published.

OBJECTIVES:

The aim of this work was to present the prevalence of severe obesity in school-aged children from 21 countries participating in COSI.

METHOD:

The data are from cross-sectional studies in 21 European WHO member states that took part in the first three COSI rounds of data collection (2007/2008, 2009/2010, 2012/2013). School-aged children were measured using standardized instruments and methodology. Children were classified as severely obese using the definitions provided by WHO and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Analyses overtime, by child's age and mother's educational level, were performed in a select group of countries.

RESULTS:

A total of 636,933 children were included in the analysis (323,648 boys and 313,285 girls). The prevalence of severe obesity varied greatly among countries, with higher values in Southern Europe. According to the WHO definition, severe obesity ranged from 1.0% in Swedish and Moldovan children (95% CI 0.7-1.3 and 0.7-1.5, respectively) to 5.5% (95% CI 4.9-6.1) in Maltese children. The prevalence was generally higher among boys compared to girls. The IOTF cut-offs lead to lower estimates, but confirm the differences among countries, and were more similar for both boys and girls. In many countries 1 in 4 obese children were severely obese. Applying the estimates of prevalence based on the WHO definition to the whole population of children aged 6-9 years in each country, around 398,000 children would be expected to be severely obese in the 21 European countries. The trend between 2007 and 2013 and the analysis by child's age did not show a clear pattern. Severe obesity was more common among children whose mother's educational level was lower.

CONCLUSIONS:

Severe obesity is a serious public health issue which affects a large number of children in Europe. Because of the impact on educational, health, social care, and economic systems, obesity needs to be addressed via a range of approaches from early prevention of overweight and obesity to treatment of those who need it.

KEYWORDS:

BMI; Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative; Europe; Obesity

PMID:
31030201
DOI:
10.1159/000500436
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