Europe’s First Spouses gather in Zagreb to support fight against childhood obesity

Europe’s First Spouses gather in Zagreb to support fight against childhood obesity |

Spouses of European leaders gathered in Zagreb on Wednesday to attend a summit organised by the World Health Organisation to launch an initiative to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity in Europe.

Childhood obesity rates will seriously affect future generations’ quality of life and average lifespans, the Executive Director of WHO Europe’s regional office, Robb Butler, told reporters after the meeting.

“Unless we act now, the consequences will be huge. This will affect our economies, health care systems, the quality of life, and also the expected lifespan of our children and grandchildren,” Butler was quoted as saying by the state news agency Hina.

The meeting was hosted by Dr Sanja Music Milanovic, the wife of Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic. She is also a trained physician and expert on public health and obesity and a member of WHO Europe’s advisory council for innovation for non-communicable diseases.

“Today, we created the Network of Spouses of European Leaders, united in our effort to launch a prevention programme for this increasingly prevalent public health problem. In Croatia alone, childhood obesity is expected to shorten the average lifespan by three and a half years, and across Europe by three years on average,” Music Milanovic told reporters.

She added that some 35% of Croatian children were found to be overweight or obese – a concerningly high rate considering that across the European continent, the average rate is 26%.

The summit was attended in person by spouses of ten European prime ministers and heads of state, including Spain’s Queen Letizia, the spouse of Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic, Tamara Vucic, and others. Another six first ladies supported the initiative via video messages, including Elke Büdenbender (Germany), Sabina Mary Higgins (Ireland), Michal Herzog (Israel), and Emine Erdogan (Turkey).

The meeting saw the adoption of the Zagreb Declaration, a document formally extending political support for combating the problem of childhood obesity in Europe, and also a decision to set up a dedicated European centre to help fight obesity on the continent.

According to the latest data compiled by the World Obesity Federation, there will be some 17 million boys and 11 million girls aged 5-19 living with obesity in Europe by 2035, while the cost of problems stemming from overweight and obesity in all age groups are projected to balloon to some €730 billion every year.

WHO says that obesity is among the leading causes of death and disability in Europe.

“Recent estimates suggest that they cause more than 1.2 million deaths annually, corresponding to more than 13% of total mortality…  Obesity is also considered a cause of at least 13 different types of cancer, and is likely to be directly responsible for at least 200 000 new cancer cases annually across the [European] region,” a WHO press release said.

According to the WHO, the fight against obesity rates should include three main elements – prevention via promoting healthy nutrition, regulation through taxes on sugary drinks and limiting children’s access to unhealthy foods; and promoting physical activity.

(David Spaic-Kovacic |

Read more with EURACTIV

Europe’s First Spouses gather in Zagreb to support fight against childhood obesity |

Greek PM admits bugging socialist leader’s phone was wrong


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *