A new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that overweight affects 1 in 10 children worldwide.

The report, "Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health", has been issued by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) of the WHO in co-operation with the Iternational Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) in May 2004.

Around 30-45 million within that figure are classified as obese - accounting for 2-3% of the world’s children aged 5-17.

A further 22 million younger children are also affected according to previous IOTF global estimates based on WHO data for under fives.

The report identifies examples of problematic social trends:

- Increase in use of motorized transport, e.g. to school.

- Fall in opportunities for recreational physical activity.

- Increased sedentary recreation.

- Multiple TV channels around the clock.

- Greater quantities and variety of energy dense foods available.

- Rising levels of promotion and marketing of energy-dense foods.

- More frequent and widespread food purchasing opportunities.

- More use of restaurants and fast food stores.

- Larger portions of food offering better ‘value’ for money.

- Increased frequency of eating occasions.

- Rising use of soft drinks to replace water, e.g. in schools.

Stronger policies are needed to:

- provide clear and consistent consumer information, e.g. on food labels;

- encourage food companies to provide lower energy, more nutritious foods marketed for children;

- develop criteria for advertising that promotes healthier eating;

- improve maternal nutrition and encourage breast-feeding of infants;

- design secure play facilities and safe local neighbourhoods;

- encourage schools to enact coherent food, nutrition and physical activity policies;

- encourage medical and health professionals to partic­ipate in the development of public health programmes.

The report is available upon request from the IOTF.

- More information on childhood obesity and the work of the IOTF.

- Comparative charter on children’s obesity.

Last modified on May 12 2004.