Childhood Obesity Presents Opportunities and Challenges Interview with:
Rebecca Jones, MSPH
Nutrition and Health Sciences Program
Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Emory University

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Obesity in children is associated with a wide range of conditions later in life including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Even prior to adulthood, children can be affected by a host of non-communicable diseases which are affected by weight status of the child. With an increase in children who are overweight or obese globally, Dr. Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, announced a new initiative to combat childhood obesity at the 2014 World Health Assembly. Within childhood obesity the pre-school (under age 5) years are a critical period for prevention due the association of adiposity rebound and obesity in later years as well as the early establishment of taste preferences and attitudes around healthy eating habits. Recent evaluation of incident obesity in the United States has demonstrated a component of the course to obesity is already established by the age of five years.

Our main finding is the necessity for better surveillance and comparability of weight status, particularly overweight and obesity, in children under five across countries in the European region. 60% of countries within the region have some form of published data on this particular population however they vary based on level of national representation, cut-off criteria, age and gender. All these different factors can significantly change the prevalence estimates making it very difficult to ascertain the full nature of the problem. Based on the data which was available the European Region has reason for concern about overweight and obesity in young children.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response:  Historically, a fat child meant a healthy child and the concept of bigger as better was widely accepted. This perception has begun to shift, however clinicians and patients need to continue to be made aware of the importance of a healthy weight even at such young ages. It is vital that clinicians discuss with patients the long-term problems which can result from an unhealthy weight in children under 5.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research needs to comprehensively evaluate the weight status of children under five, underweight and overweight, within countries with an aim towards having data which is comparable with other countries across the region. This research is pivotal to help in the future development of comparable core indicators for inclusion in national health surveillance systems. To begin to impact the weight status of children in the region, policy makers first need a knowledge base of prevalence estimates of nutritional status.


Abstract presented at the European Congress on Obesity May 2015
Surveillance of Overweight including Obesity in Children Under 5: Opportunities and Challenges for the European Region
Jones R.1,2, Breda J.2
1Department of Public Nutrition, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, 2Department of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, Division Noncommunicable Diseases and Lifecourse, World Health Organization European Regional Office, Copenhagen, Denmark Interview with:, Rebecca Jones, MSPH, Nutrition and Health Sciences Program, Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, & Emory University (2015). Childhood Obesity Presents Opportunities and Challenges 

Last Updated on May 8, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD