It is imperative for public health researchers to continue monitoring the obesity epidemic over time, in order to understand how to manage the mental and physical consequences to individuals, as well as costs to society. Recent evidence from the IDEFICS study revealed that the prevalence of overweight and obesity in young children varies widely across Europe, with highest rates in the Italian survey center where almost half of children were overweight or obese, in contrast to much lower rates in Sweden and Belgium. However, it should be noted that the prevalence estimates from IDEFICS survey centers cannot be considered representative at country levels.
In fact, until recently, data on childhood obesity prevalence from nationally representative samples has not been available in most European countries. In 2008, following a WHO European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Childhood Obesity, the WHO-European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, COSI was initiated. Our research group, in collaboration with Karolinska Institute, participated in the initial round of the COSI survey (2008) which included the first nationally representative data collection with standardized anthropometric data that has ever been performed in Swedish children. Briefly, results from the first Swedish COSI survey revealed that one out of six 7-8 year olds was overweight (including obese), and that rural Swedish schoolchildren had 60% excess risk of being overweight compared to urban children. Western Sweden subsequently participated in the two following rounds of COSI data collection in 2010 and 2013, where we invited the same schools as included in the region in 2008. Twenty-three schools were included all three years and results on trends from this five year period will be published in the coming months. We consider it a top public health priority to continue this monitoring on a national basis, as part of the WHO surveillance initiative.
In spring 2016, we will therefore aim to conduct a fourth wave of Swedish examinations for COSI, in parallel with those of our other European partners. Specifically, recruitment of new national sample of Swedish 7-8 year olds will be done with the following general objectives: to confirm whether or not the childhood obesity epidemic has abated in Sweden; to contribute national data that can be directly compared to other European countries; and to better document lifestyle changes that may be causes and/or consequences of the epidemic. A 5-country comparative article, entitled on Socioeconomic Disparities and Childhood Obesity, will be prepared by our group, based on a pooled analysis of representative data from the 2008 data collection in 5 European countries including Sweden, as part of our activities as a WHO Collaborating Center. This will be the first European study to monitor differences in the socioeconomic gradient in childhood obesity using nationally representative sampling and standardized methods, and will be the baseline for all future COSI studies on whether the socioeconomic gap in obesity is widening.
Collaborations: In 2008, the project was performed in collaboration with WHO regional office for Europe, Trudy Wijnhoven and Joao Breda, and 12 European countries. The Swedish national data were collected in collaboration with Karolinska institutet, the research group at the Department of biosciences and nutrition was lead by Associate Professor Agneta Yngve.
Starting with the regional study in Västra Götaland region in 2013, this project is performed in collaboration with the Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg.
Researchers Gothenburg: Agneta Sjöberg1, Lauren Lissner2, Lotta Moraeus2, Linda Olsson1,
1Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
2Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Section for Epidemiology and Social medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Lotta Moraeus, 46 709-126136