How active are our children?

Report cards on the physical activity of children and youth across the world have been released revealing how countries compare in getting their youth active. The Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance was responsible for organising the cards which graded countries on nine common indicators, overall physical activity, organized sport participation, active play, active transportation, sedentary behaviour, family and peers, school, community and the built environment and government strategies and investment.

The cards reflect standardised grading across countries ranging from  A= excellent to F = failing. Average grades for both physical activity and sedentary behaviour around the world are D. There is no data available for Northern Ireland, but both England and Scotland have been graded as D while Scotland is graded as F.

For more information about children’s physical activity and health on the bhfactive.org.uk website

Pilot health projects funded by the EU

A pilot project is simply an experimental initiative designed to test the feasibility and usefulness of action. It is meant to try different approaches, develop evidence-based strategies to address a problem, identify good practices, and provide policy guidance for the benefit of possible future initiatives in the area of nutrition and physical activity.

Boards of scientific experts have been set up from a variety of disciplines for each project to provide robust guidelines for the project intervention and to validate its tools including the project websites which reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily the official opinion of the Commission.

Examples of pilot projects include ‘My healthy family’; ‘ We love eating’ and ‘Taste booster’.

Read more about some pilot projects on healthy living on the ec.europa.eu website

Communicating health: experiences from small countries

Small countries with limited budgets have found new ways of engaging with the media to support the implementation of international agendas on health. Examples include:

Welfare Watch – Iceland

National experts from different sectors developed a set of social indicators on the country’s current and future health and social care needs and the Ministry of Welfare used these indicators to present journalists with interesting, high-quality information to catalyse public discussions on citizens’ health and welfare.

Eat well, move more – Luxembourg

This programme promotes healthy eating and physical exercise, and involves the Ministries of Health; Education, Children and Youth; Sport; and Family Affairs and Integration. It had collaborated with the media to involve civil society through schools, preschools, youth associations, and workplaces; and supports individuals by sending out booklets on healthy eating and the benefits of regular exercise.

More information on Small countries use of the media to promote healthy living on the euro.who.int website

Urban green spaces deliver multiple health benefits

A new WHO report summarizing evidence on the health effects of green space in urban areas shows that they offer numerous public health benefits, including psychological relaxation and stress reduction, enhanced physical activity and a potential reduction in exposure to air pollution, noise and excessive heat.

The report concludes that there is a need for both small, local green spaces situated very close to where people live and spend their day, and large green spaces that provide formal recreational facilities (such as playing fields) and opportunities to interact with nature.

The report also presents a toolkit for a geographic information system (GIS)-based approach to measuring urban green space. This provides cities with a way to calculate how many people have access to green spaces and to identify new areas where they can be established.

Download the report on Urban Green Spaces and Public Health from the euro.who.int website

A Healthy Weight for Ireland

In the past two decades levels of overweight and obesity in Ireland have doubled with only 40% of the population having a healthy weight. This represents one of the biggest public health challenges Ireland is facing today and according to the WHO these levels are forecast to increase, so Ireland may top the European “League Tables” in this regard. The fact that the majority of the population is overweight or obese means that Ireland faces a dramatic increase in chronic diseases which, in the worst case scenario, will reverse the improvement in life expectancy seen in the last few decades.
Ireland has now produced ‘A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 – 2025’ to help people achieve better health and in particular to reduce the levels of overweight and obesity. It also acknowledges that the solutions are multiple andthat every sector has a role to play.
The full Obesity and Action Plan can be downloaded from the health.gov.ie website

Consumption of fruit and vegetables

On average across the EU, only 1 in 7 people aged 15 or over eats at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables daily……while 1 in 3 have days when they do not eat any fruit or vegetables at all.
Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is considered an important element of a healthy and balanced diet yet in the EU slightly more than a third (34.4%) of the population aged 15 or over did not eat them on a daily basis in 2014, while less than 15% (14.1%) consumed at least 5 portions each day.
The daily consumption of fruit and vegetables differs widely between EU Member States, with those aged 15 or over not eating fruit and vegetables on a daily basis ranging from almost two-thirds of the population in Romania (65.1%) to slightly over 15% in Belgium (16.5%). On the other hand, the share of those eating at least 5 portions daily varied from a third in the United Kingdom (33.1%) to less than 5% in both Romania (3.5%) and Bulgaria (4.4%).
Different for men and for women, daily consumption of fruit and vegetables seems also to be influenced by the level of education. The higher the education level, the higher the share of the “5-a-day” population.
More statistics on healthy eating habits can be downloaded from the ec.europa.eu website

Reducing alcohol-related harm

The Joint Action on Reducing Alcohol-related Harm (RARHA) has been a three year project co-financed by the EU Health Programme. It has now completed its work and published its findings which include:

  • Monitoring of drinking patterns and alcohol-related harm, including data and survey results on heavy episodic drinking, attitudes towards alcohol policy, and harm to others.
  • Low risk drinking guidelines in RARHA partner countries and a common criterion for low risk, including findings such as the importance to legislate and enforce an 18-year minimum age for all alcoholic beverages across the EU.
  • A toolkit for evidence based good practices in action to prevent alcohol related harm, including concrete examples of good practices in certain Member States.

More information about Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm can be found on the rarha.eu website

Where is it hardest to be a girl?

A girl under 15 is married every seven seconds; others are forced to live a life of modern-day slavery. Around the world, girls are at risk of trafficking, forced labour and sexual violence – especially if a war, earthquake or flood tears their homes apart.

Save the Children has produced a report that throws new light on the many discriminations faced by girls in 144 countries around the world. They have also produced an interactive map enabling readers to compare and contrast the quality of girls’ lives in different countries.

Use the map showing where it is hardest to be a girl on the savethechildren.org website

Alcohol-attributable deaths in Europe

For the first time, trends in alcohol consumption and related mortality have been examined systematically for all countries in the WHO European Region for an extended period. WHO/Europe’s new report “Public health successes and missed opportunities. Trends in alcohol consumption and attributable mortality in the WHO European Region, 1990–2014” shows that over the past 25 years alcohol-attributable deaths increased by 4%.

The European Region ranks highest globally in terms of adult per capita alcohol consumption, and the level and patterns of drinking have contributed substantially to mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer, liver cirrhosis, and unintentional and intentional injury.

More information and the full report on Alcohol consumption and public health can be downloaded from the euro.who.int website

Adding to Social capital and individual Potential in ex-Industrial REgions (ASPIRE)

This proposed project will be applying for funding under the Interreg VA France (Channel) England programme which focuses on issues that affect the coastal areas of southern England and northern France. In both areas there are places currently deeply affected by the closure of a single dominant employer such as mining, ship-building and heavy industrial production. The local economy has found it hard to replace the jobs lost and the resulting deprivation shows in the levels of unemployment and general ill-health (mental and physical).

This project will initiate and encourage small-scale community involvement in growing, cooking and selling local produce, creating a healthier community and enabling small businesses to evolve and regenerate the local economy.

The Health and Europe Centre are the lead partners in this project and although it is in its very earliest stages, we already have a number of organisations interested in becoming partners, including Medway CIC, KCC, Plymouth Council, Kent CHFT and the Hadlow Group through the Betteshanger Community Park.