Spouses of European Leaders Unite to Tackle Childhood Obesity
The spouses of 16 European leaders and heads of state have joined forces under the auspices of First Lady of Croatia Dr. Sanja Musić Milanović, to launch the first-ever Network of Spouses of European Leaders on the Prevention of Childhood Obesity in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region. They have unanimously adopted the Zagreb Declaration, laying out their political commitment to addressing childhood obesity in their countries and urging other countries to do the same.
According to the WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022, roughly 1 in 3 primary school-aged children in the Region is living with obesity or is overweight, and this is only set to rise further.
Based on current trends and looking exclusively at obesity in the WHO European Region, which covers 53 countries across Europe and central Asia, the World Obesity Federation’s World Obesity Atlas 2023 projects that between 2020 and 2035 there will be:
- a 61% increase in the number of boys living with obesity
- a 75% increase in the number of girls living with obesity.
- The Atlas estimates that a total of 17 million boys and 11 million girls aged 5–19 will be living with obesity in the Region in 2035. By then, overweight and obesity across all age groups are projected to cost the Region US $800 billion annually.
WHO/Europe has identified three specific actions to counter current projections and help prevent this silent epidemic from getting worse. These include an increased emphasis on prevention, greater regulation of the food and beverage industry and the promotion of greater physical activity.
First Lady of Croatia, Dr. Milanović said, ‘Here at the Zagreb Summit, we have had the opportunity to clearly demonstrate that obesity knows no borders – it is our common problem, and we can only approach it together, at the European level, and by including numerous sectors of society. I believe that the Zagreb Declaration is an important step for halting the rise of childhood obesity in the entire European Region, and that with joint action we will improve and preserve the health of future generations.’
Overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of death and disability in the Region. Recent estimates suggest that they cause more than 1.2 million deaths annually, corresponding to more than 13% of total mortality.
Obesity increases the risk for many noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.