Program agreement for the program to prevent and combat childhood obesity, with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was signed today the Minister of Health, Thanos Pleuris and the general secretary of Public Health, Irini Agapidaki, with the Organization’s diplomatic representative in Greece, Luciano Kalestini.

According to the World Health Organization’s European Obesity Report, published in 2022, Greece is ranked third (3rd) among European countries with overweight and obese children under 5 years of age (1 in 8 children). Alongside, for ages 5-9 and 10-19, it ranks second (2nd) and first (1st) among European countries, as around 1 in 3 children (37.5% and 35% respectively) are overweight or obese. In addition, according to the European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative- “COSI”) published in 2022, at the ages of 7-9 years Greece ranks second (2nd) among the 33 countries that participated, with 42% of children in this age group being overweight or obese.

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF designed the National Action against Childhood Obesity in Greece, which aspires to be a pioneering program, which will be implemented on a multi-level scale – national, regional, local level – throughout the Greek territory.

The program is expected to start in June and the Minister of Health Thanos Plevris emphasized that the treatment of childhood obesity is one of the main priorities of the government. “The fact that we rank high in the EU in childhood obesity shows that we need to take immediate action so that our children have a better future with better nutrition, exercise and weight control from an early age. In this direction, our collaboration with UNICEF gives us the possibility to develop such a program so that in the coming years we can see the tangible results of the reduction of childhood obesity indicators”he said.

O UNICEF diplomatic representative in Greece Luciano Kalestinipointed out that “childhood obesity is a serious and growing global public health threat. Without an immediate response, more than half of the world’s population will suffer from obesity by 2030, with the most disadvantaged and immediately threatened group being children. By then, the required global medical costs to treat obesity-related diseases are estimated at $4 trillion. dollars annually, without even considering the wider social and economic impacts. In Greece, it is estimated that around 600,000 children under the age of 14 are obese or overweight, which is equivalent to almost two out of five children. Today, through this multi-year, cross-sectoral, collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the UNICEF office in Greece, funded by the EU’s Resilience and Resilience Mechanism (RESM), we have the opportunity to take a bold and substantial step forward for to face and reverse this public health crisis together, for our children and for our country, while creating an integrated model of best practice to tackle childhood obesity, both within and outside the borders of the EU”.

The program includes primary, secondary and tertiary prevention actions, targeting all children aged 0-17 years, as well as their families, seeking on the one hand to reduce the risk factors and socio-economic inequalities responsible for the appearance of obesity during childhood and adolescence and on the other hand, to combat the consequences of overweight and obesity, which often lead to the appearance of chronic diseases and multimorbidity during adult life.

Specifically, it enables:

– for the entire Greek student population to participate in actions of varying intensity, frequency and dynamics to promote healthy eating behaviors and physical activity, which will take place within the school units at all levels of compulsory education (kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools) with the active participation of teachers, as well as parents and guardians,

– for parents to receive free personalized clinical assessment and counseling on the health, development, nutritional status of their children, as well as on the risk factors related to the onset of childhood obesity and to treat them in time, in the context of regular visits them to their pediatrician,

– for school-age children and their families with already established risk factors for obesity or other chronic diseases to receive free counseling services (nutrition counseling, counseling to change health behaviors) in the form of tele-counseling by properly trained health professionals (dietitians, physical therapists) , ka) and

– for overweight and obese school-age children with already established diseases and complications to be referred to specialized pediatric units for further follow-up by specialized health professionals.

At the same time, as part of the National Action against Childhood Obesity in Greece, a new research center, the European Center for the Fight against Obesity, will be established at Harokopion University, with the aim of producing research, ideas and policy proposals, but also with an active role in scientific coordination and in the scientific evaluation of the National Action.