Cyprus Mail

Increase in numbers of children at risk of obesity


Children in Cyprus are among the most at risk of obesity in the European Union, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report published on Wednesday.

According to the report, Cyprus ranks seventh in the bloc as far as prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years is concerned and eighth among children aged five to nine years.

Moreover, over 40 per cent of all Cypriot children aged seven to nine years are overweight and over 20 per cent of boys are obese, with the figure decreasing to just under 20 per cent among girls.

The WHO report indicated the Covid-19 pandemic and the repeated lockdowns as possible causes for the increase in overweight and obesity rates among Cypriot children.

“During the pandemic, we experienced the true impact of the obesity epidemic in the EU,” WHO regional director for Europe Hans Henri Kluge said in the report.

“People living with obesity were more likely to experience severe outcomes of the Covid-19 disease spectrum, including intensive care unit admissions and death,” he said.

“At the same time, preliminary evidence suggests that many of the restrictions related to containment of the pandemic, including school closures and periods of restricted population movements, have led to an increase in exposure to some of the risk factors that influence a person’s likelihood to experience obesity or overweight, such as an unhealthy diet or sedentary lifestyle.”

Last month, the education ministry unveiled a national fitness assessment programme for secondary school children (Aristotelis) as part of concerted efforts with the health ministry to combat child obesity.

Education and health ministers Prodromos Prodromou and Michalis Hadjipantelas joined other officials in underlining the importance of exercise and healthy eating to combat an alarming increase in child obesity.

Programmes, some of them implemented with the health ministry, include sport afternoons, promoting physical activity outside PE class in cooperation with private organisations, a national campaign to promote exercise at school and creative afternoon activities.

Other initiatives are campaigns to promote consumption of fruit and vegetables, a healthy breakfast and Mediterranean lunch, legislation for school canteens and the Lidl children’s food academy.


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