Health and education authorities in Finland have issued new guidelines for school food for the first time in a decade. They’re aimed at making lunches more nutritious – and more appealing to youngsters.
The new recommendations call for more emphasis on dining as a calm, pleasant communal experience and on the sustainability of food. This means more serious vegetarian alternatives, as well as more fish and “less red meat, more vegetables, fruit and berries”.
According to the new guidelines, pupils should be allowed at least half an hour to eat, and lunch should be served between around 11 am and noon. Since many schools’ cafeterias may be too cramped for comfortable eating, it is also suggested that schools could experiment with having pupils eat together in their own classrooms, for instance.
For more information about Finland’s new school food guidelines on the yle.fi website
A lack of physical activity is a significant risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Less and less physical activity is occurring in many countries – globally, 23% of adults and 81% school-going adolescents are not active enough.
WHO have identified 10 facts about physical activity, including:
- it reduces the risk of disease
- it helps maintain a healthy body
- it’s not the same as sport
- 60 minutes a day for 5-17 year olds
- 150 minutes a week for 18-64 year olds
- Some physical activity is better than none
To see the full list and associated images on physical activity on the who.int website
World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization and it provides a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.
The theme of the 2017 World Health Day campaign is depression, which can affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. At worst, it can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds. The campaign is paying particular attention to three groups that are disproportionately affected:
- adolescents and young adults
- women of childbearing age (particularly following childbirth)
- adults over 60
Materials targeting these audiences are available in the campaign materials.
For more information about the campaign – Depression, let’s talk – on the who.int website
The tobacco industry has become more focused, aggressive and sophisticated in its efforts to block tobacco control measures. However, no single source has yet provided the resources to understand how governments and the public health community can respond to the arguments of tobacco industry players. In light of this, WHO/Europe has developed the Tobacco Control Playbook, an online tool that counters common tobacco myths.
The Playbook is intended to be a living resource, regularly updated and extended with further arguments and on the basis of feedback. It will also be adjusted and expanded to take into account any new developments in tobacco industry approaches. Everyone concerned with tobacco control is invited to contribute to the Playbook’s success by continuing to offer arguments and responses, and by sharing their experiences of using the Playbook. Please send input to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download the Tobacco Control Playbook from the euro.who.int website
Life expectancy now exceeds 80 years in most EU countries according to the new report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2016“, but these are not always healthy life years. Around 50 million people in the EU suffer from several chronic diseases, and more than half a million people of working age die from them every year, representing an annual cost of some €115 billion for EU economies. Three fundamental changes are needed if this is going to change:
- more effective health systems: 550,000 people of working age die every year from potentially avoidable diseases. 16% of adults are obese now (up from 11% in 2000) and one in five is still smoking. Many lives could be saved firstly, by focusing more resources on health promotion and disease prevention strategies and secondly, by improving the quality of acute and chronic care.
- more accessible health systems: 27% of patients go to A & E due to the lack of availability of primary care; an average of 15% of health spending is paid directly out-of-pocket by patients with large disparities between countries; and poor Europeans are on average 10 times more likely to have problems in getting proper healthcare for financial reasons than more affluent ones. Member States’ policies should focus on reducing financial barriers to healthcare, strengthening access to primary care, and reducing excessive waiting times.
- more resilient health systems: Across the EU the share of the population over 65 has increased from less than 10% in 1960 to nearly 20% in 2015 and is projected to increase to nearly 30% by 2060. Population ageing, combined with increasing rates of chronic diseases and budgetary constraints, will require changes in how we deliver healthcare, including developing eHealth, reducing hospital stays by organising services better in primary and community care, and spending more wisely on pharmaceuticals, including by making full use of opportunities for generic substitutions.
More information about Improving Health Systems on the europa.eu website
Air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) has warned. People in urban areas are especially at risk, with around 85% exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at levels deemed harmful by the World Health Organization (WHO).
These particles are too small to see or smell, but can have a devastating impact, causing or aggravating heart disease, asthma and lung cancer.
Download the Air Quality in Europe 2016 report from the eea.europa.eu website
The new psychoactive substances (NPS) market has increased so fast that existing drug control laws have been left behind. European countries have responded in a variety of ways: some have introduced new legal responses to NPS, based on existing consumer or health protection laws, or laws governing medicinal products, while others have developed innovative new legislation. However, in 2014 the EU’s Court of Justice ruled that substances are not medicinal products if they do not have beneficial effects on human health, thus restricting the use of such laws for NPS control.
This report is in two parts; the first is aimed at policymakers, and lists the challenges in NPS control and the solutions adopted in selected Member States. The second part is for legal practitioners, and focuses on the judgment of the Court of Justice and its practical effects on the transnational prosecution of NPS cases, describing the responses of some of the Member States most affected by the ruling.
Download the full report on New Psychoactive Substances on the emcdda.eu website
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
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.
Health systems have a substantial impact on the environment and are major consumers of energy and resources, according to evidence compiled in the new WHO policy paper “Towards environmentally sustainable health systems in Europe”.
The paper explains that although health systems use up natural resources, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and produce large quantities of waste, including hazardous material, they can also have a positive impact on the environment – particularly in the areas of health promotion and environmental health protection activities.
Find out more about environmentally sustainable health systems on the euro.who.int website