UEMO Policy Position on the rise of childhood obesity across Europe

17 June 2017 224 Views

The European Union of General Practitioners (UEMO) is an organisation of the most representative national, nongovernmental, independent organisations representing general practitioners/family physicians in the countries of Europe. Founded in 1967 by the national organisations in Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and Italy, the Union quickly grew to encompass organisations from all the current Member States of the European Union as well as from the countries of the European Free Trade Association and other European countries The UEMO aims to promote the highest standard of training, practice and patient care within the field of general practic/family medicinee throughout Europe and defend the role of general practitioners/family physicians in the healthcare system.

The European Union of General Practitioners (UEMO) is concerned with regard to the rise in childhood obesity across Europe. The issue has now become a considerable burden on national healthcare systems, national economies, on individuals and society as a whole.

Childhood obesity has been associated with a variety of premature co-morbidities including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, orthopaedic and musculoskeletal problems, and psychological disorders. In addition, childhood obesity can persist into adulthood. Childhood obesity is caused by multiple factors which have their roots in individual, genetic, community, societal, and organisational issues. Hence the necessity to adopt a comprehensive, multitargeted approach rather than single, separated measures to tackle the problem.

A number of issues need to be addressed through a co-ordinated approach at European level. These include reformulation, labelling and marketing. There is an acknowledgment that DG Sante has made considerable efforts to tackle the problem of childhood obesity through the High Level Working Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity. However many of the necessary actions are outside DG Sante’s scope of action. Greater attention should be drawn on the impact of marketing on the consumption of High Fat, High Sugar and High Salt (HFSS) foods, especially on children and adolescents. The updated AVMS directive is debated in a way which does not include Health-related considerations. Similarly, policies related to sustainable healthy food systems are governed by non-health sectors such as the Common Agriculture Policy and trade policies. Therefore, a more comprehensive approach should be adopted in order to combine all forces to fight this rising health issue.

Whilst population based approaches are very important, no country has managed to reduce obesity by preventive measures alone. An approach for the management of children who are already overweight and obese is needed. This requires a multi-professional approach through a family based model in which the family doctor is the best suited professional, as he often follows the individual for a longer period, to support families in managing childhood obesity.

UEMO considers that obesity fulfils the criteria of a disease and merits to be treated as such. Care pathways for obesity follow the same modalities as other diseases and the family doctor has an important role to play in this regard. This would namely require further investments in training the GPs for brief interventions in general practice coupled with appropriate referral mechanisms for specialised services.

UEMO supports the efforts being done by the Maltese Presidency of the European Union on childhood obesity and firmly believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to act. UEMO welcomes the council conclusions on childhood obesity as a way forward to tackle the rise in childhood obesity. As family doctors we recognize the importance of our role in fighting this issue. We identify the short amount of time allocated for GP -patent contact in many Member States as one of the main barriers.

Indeed UEMO calls for the training of all health professionals who are responsible for the care of obese patients, not only GPs. Such training will enable health care professionals to enhance skills in management of obesity and be advocates for change in their community. UEMO believes that we can succeed in halting the rise in childhood obesity if all stakeholders join forces. Stronger coalitions are required across all sectors through a “Health For All” policies approach with specific attention to tackling health inequalities.

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