Diet, physical activity and health

In Europe today, 6 of the 7 biggest risk factors for premature death – blood pressure, cholesterol, Body Mass Index, inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity and alcohol abuse – relate to how we eat, drink and move.

In April 2016 a conference was held on ‘Diet, Physical Activity and Health: a European Platform for Action‘.

Presentations included:

  • teaching children to be media-literate
  • responsible advertising
  • helping consumers make more informed food choices

To see all the presentations on the website

Alcohol and young people

The 3rd European Alcohol Policy Youth Conference is going to be the concluding event of the EU funded project Let  it hAPYN that has been empowering young people and youth organizations across Europe towards more effective and evidence-based alcohol interventions for the last three years.

The conference will focus on the three main areas of APYN’s work: capacity building, advocacy and youth research on alcohol and youth. It will be a great opportunity for networking and learning from the showcased products that were carried out in the last three years by youth organizations themselves.   It is expected that up to 100 young people between the ages of 18 and 30 from all around Europe will come together to plan the next stages of youth mobilization on the issues around alcohol in Europe.

To apply for a place at the Alcohol Policy Youth Conference in Slovenia in May 2016

Gender and socioeconomic impacts on young people’s health

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study  is updated every four years and since 2002 has shown that differences in reported life satisfaction between adolescents in western and eastern Europe have narrowed, with countries such as Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine reporting significant increases in life satisfaction over the period.

Data collected for the study are based on surveys completed by thousands of adolescents, ensuring that their voices and concerns can be taken fully into account when WHO frames its European strategies, policies and actions for improving child and adolescent health and well-being. The latest HBSC report, which presents data from the 2013/2014 surveys, has a special focus on the effects of gender and socioeconomic differences on the way that young people grow and develop.

According to the HBSC International Coordinator: “The findings highlight large gender disparities in health, which emerge or worsen during the adolescent years. While girls are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables and brush their teeth than boys, they report more negative self-perceptions and poorer mental well-being. Boys are generally more physically active but also more likely to engage in risky behaviours. Differences across countries show the importance of understanding the role of gender norms and cultural expectations in influencing behaviour.

The HBSC data has been fed into the WHO report Growing up unequal: gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being which covers 42 countries in Europe and North America. The cross-national survey covers diverse aspects of adolescent health and social behaviour, including self-assessment of mental health; obesity and body image; dietary habits; engagement in physical activity; support from families and peers; tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use; and bullying.

To read the key findings from the 2013/14 HBSC study, on the website

To read Growing up unequal on the website


English children have low life satisfaction

According to Barnardo’s, an international survey of children’s well-being reveals the eight-year-olds in England are less happy than those in Romania, Poland and Algeria.

England ranks 13 out of 16 countries when it comes to children’s life satisfaction, with only South Korea, Nepal and Ethiopia faring worse.

More than 17,000 children from 16 countries were asked about their family and home life, friendships, money, personal well-being and overall happiness.

To read the full report Children’s Worlds on the

Global recommendations to stop childhood obesity

The World Health Assembly recently adopted a global target for all countries to renew their efforts to halt the rise of obesity in children under 5 by 2025.

The Commission’s recommendations to address childhood obesity cover six areas:

  • promotion of intake of healthy foods;
  • promotion of physical activity;
  • preconception and pregnancy care;
  • early childhood diet and physical activity;
  • health, nutrition and physical activity for school-age children;
  • weight management.

To read the report and other publications on childhood obesity on the website.

Children and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing

Children and adolescents logo

June 2014. All the evidence shows that investing in the health and wellbeing of our children and young people brings life-long benefits – not only to the young people themselves but also to their families and wider society.

Attendees at this seminar had the opportunity to hear examples from the UK and abroad of good practice in securing the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents through actions and interventions outside the home. The programme gives brief biographies of both speakers and their presentations covered European projects that have focused on obesity, body image and the associated mental health of young people as well as a project that generated sustainable support networks.

Using the internet to fight alcohol abuse

The Italian Ministry of Health is using two of the best communication tools geared to young people – the internet and music – to deliver an important message about alcohol. In Italy, like Europe as a whole, alcohol abuse is the leading cause of death and disability among people under 30.

To read more about the campaign (in Italian), click here on

Obesity and diabetes the new killers amongst the young

Fewer people are dying from stroke and heart attacks than before, but rising levels of obesity and diabetes, particularly among younger people, are going to push mortality rates higher, according to a new OECD report. Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes: Policies for Better Health and Quality of Care points out that although there has been a 60% drop in mortality rates in the last 50 years in OECD countries from cardiovascular disease (CVD) it still remains the leading cause of death.

Currently around 85 million people in OECD countries have diabetes, which represents around 7% of people aged 20-79 years, and this number is projected to reach 108 million by 2030 – a 27% increase. Obesity is also rising, affecting one in five people in the OECD. Amongst other things, the report recommends that countries should:

  • Do more to promote healthier lifestyles. Anti-smoking policies, initiatives to reduce salt consumption and combat obesity have all been shown to be effective
  • Ensure primary care is financially accessible to everyone and the gap between recommended care and care provided in practice is closed.
  • Improve accountability and transparency of primary care performance.
  • Establish a national framework to improve the quality of acute care and reduce regional     variations within countries.
  • Ensure reforms involve every single aspect of the health system, from policies and prevention to primary care, emergency care, acute care and rehabilitation, as the complexity of treating CVD and diabetes means that the chain of care is only as strong as its weakest link.

To read the full report, click here on

Speed kills – especially children

In the European Region there is no greater threat to the lives of children aged 5–17 years than a road traffic crash. The likelihood of death from road traffic injuries among children in low- and middle-income countries is almost twice as high as among those in high-income countries. Children are vulnerable as road users, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists or car occupants. To combat this relentless loss of daily life, the global campaign proposes ten strategies to keep children safe on the roads. These strategies are:

  1. controlling speed on all roads, and in particular enforcing a maximum speed limit of 30 km per hour on roads with high concentrations of pedestrians;
  2. reducing drinking and driving to protect children from this major threat;
  3. using helmets for bicyclists and motorcyclists to reduce the risk of serious head injury;
  4. restraining children in vehicles by using infant car seats, child car seats, booster seats and seat-belts appropriate for a child’s age;
  5. improving children’s visibility through wearing reflective strips, using headlamps on bicycles and motorbikes, appointing crossing guards around schools and enhancing street lighting;
  6. enhancing road infrastructure to slow traffic and separate different types of road users, and creating car free zones;
  7. adapting vehicle design to make safer cars for passengers and pedestrians;
  8. reducing risks for young drivers by introducing graduated driver licensing schemes;
  9. providing appropriate care for injured children with equipment and staff trained to treat         children;
  10. supervising children around roads, to complement the other measures.

To read more about these strategies, click here on

To read the Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, click here on

The new Tobacco Products Directive

This Directive is a major achievement for public health in the EU, in particular as regards the protection of young people. Once it is implemented, there will be major changes in the type and packaging of tobacco products available on the EU market as the Directive prohibits strong flavours such as fruit or menthol in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. It requires that cigarette packages carry big pictures and text warnings that remind consumers of the risks of smoking and bans the use of misleading terms such as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.

The Directive also introduces measures to combat the illicit trade of tobacco products. New provisions for nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes will ensure that these products are safer and of better quality, and properly labelled. The Directive has already been challenged in court by both the tobacco and e-cigarette industry as well as by one Member State.

The European Parliament and Council are working together, with the help of the Commission, to ensure that the rules agreed by the co-legislators are upheld in Court and that the internal market and public health benefits of the new Directive are not lost. Encouragingly, a number of Member States (France, Ireland and the UK) have signalled their intention to go further and introduce fully standardised packaging. Like Australia before them, these countries are committed to ensuring that tobacco companies do not use packaging to entice young people to use their products. They are frontrunners in the protection of young people and citizens from the harmful effects of smoking.

Smoking prevalence has been falling in the EU over recent years and this Directive will reinforce that trend and mean even fewer young people will be attracted to start.

To read more about the Directive, click here on