STOP obesity, a project for the very young

STOP obesity, a project for the very young

September 21, 2018

STOP obesity, a project for the very young

The STOP obesity project was set up at the prestigious Imperial College in London, with the aim of devising the best policies to stop the child obesity epidemics and facilitate healthier eating patterns.

821 million people in the world are hungry, while 2.1 billion are affected by obesity or are overweight. In Europe, on average, one in ten children between 5 and 19 is obese, while in Italy the average is actually one in three. A food paradox that according to the NCD-RiscC (an international network of experts who measure the risk factors for several pathologies, including obesity) is going to increase rapidly: if the current situation does not change, by 2025 in several European countries, over one in three adults will be affected by obesity. This would have grave consequences for public health: indeed, obesity is a known risk factor for heart problems and cancer, but it also implies increased costs for the health service.

Seeking an effective solution

STOP obesity is not just a slogan, but also the name of a project promoted by London's Imperial College Business School, which plans to identify and test the best prevention and treatments for obesity, particularly for the very young (below 12 years of age). STOP is an acronym for “Science and Technology in childhood Obesity Policy”: for four years, starting from June 2018, the research team will observe 17 groups of children from the whole of Europe, in order to examine the biological and behavioral changes that lead to obesity, and how they are caused by the environment we live in. And there is more: in Spain, Sweden and Romania, researchers will also analyze the effectiveness of digital technology as a tool of prevention for obesity, particularly for the disadvantaged. 

Among its tasks, STOP plans to work on food security, in order to push the food industry to be more responsible regarding the products they put on the market, calling for innovative, healthy solutions for young consumers. Researchers also want to push European governments to fight child obesity with economic incentives for the production of healthy food and drinks. This is why the project is led by economists rather than medical doctors: obesity is a social phenomenon that is also (if not mainly) caused by the way food is produced and by consumer behavior. 

An institutional investment

Partner organizations in the STOP obesity projects include university research centers, government bodies and international organizations (WHO, IARC, OECD), child health organizations and other EU consortia (EIT Health and EIT Food). STOP will involve 16 countries, 12 of which are EU countries, for a total investment of 10 million Euro, 2 of which are financed by the European Union within the Horizon 2020 project.  

“This is a significant investment from the EU to find the most successful and effective approaches to reduce child obesity, helping affected children with the best possible support”, stated project leader Professor Franco Sassi, director of the Center for Health Economics & Policy Innovation at the Imperial College Business School. "In the United Kingdom, one in ten children is obese and this is one of the highest rates of child obesity in Europe", added Sassi. "Without an effective policy, this wave of child obesity will mean that by 2025 more than one in three adults in the United Kingdom will be obese. Projects like STOP can prevent this, by identifying and promoting effective solutions to make children more resilient to the influence of an environment that favors obesity".

Eating patterns and policies for the prevention of obesity within a framework of  food sustainability will also be the main topic discussed by BCFN at the Forum taking place in New York on 28 September, on the same day as the International Conference on sustainable development, which will take stock of the current and planned policies put in place to achieve the UN's sustainable development goals by 2030.

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