Children in the developed world

Across the OECD, the risks of poverty have been shifting from the elderly towards youth since the 1980s. These developments accentuate the need to monitor the well-being of the most disadvantaged children, but income inequality also has far-reaching consequences for society, harming educational attainment, key health outcomes and even economic growth.

UNICEF has produced a report ‘Fairness for Children’ which contains league tables of inequality in child well-being in rich countries. It analyses the situation in 41 countries in the EU and OECD and focuses on ‘bottom-end inequality’ – the gap between children at the bottom and those in the middle – and addresses the question ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ in income, education, health and life satisfaction.

To read the full report on the unicef-irc.org website

Decade of Action on Nutrition

Nearly 800 million people are chronically undernourished and 159 million children under 5 years of age are stunted. Approximately 50 million children under 5 years are wasted and over two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile 1.9 billion people are overweight – of whom over 600 million are obese – and the prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing in nearly all countries.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed a UN Decade of Action on Nutrition from 2016 to 2025.

The resolution aims to trigger intensified action to end hunger and eradicate malnutrition worldwide, and ensure universal access to healthier and more sustainable diets – for all people, whoever they are and wherever they live. It calls on governments to set national nutrition targets for 2025 and milestones based on internationally agreed indicators.

For more information about the Decade of Action on Nutrition on the who.int website

Global report on Diabetes

The first WHO Global report on diabetes states that the number of adults living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults. Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity.

In 2012 alone diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths and its complications can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.

The report calls on governments to ensure that people are able to make healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes. It encourages us all to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain.

To read the Global Report on Diabetes on the who.int website

 

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 ec.europa.eu website

Global action on diabetes

The number of adults living with diabetes worldwide has almost quadrupled since 1980, to 422 million, according to the first WHO Global report on diabetes. An estimated 64 million people are now living with the disease in the WHO European Region.

The growing diabetes epidemic is strongly associated with increasing trends in overweight and obesity, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and socioeconomic disadvantage. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease, and simple changes to one’s lifestyle can be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of the disease and its complications, which can include cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, loss of limbs and even loss of life.

To read the Global Report on Diabetes on the who.int website

Road safety across Europe

The latest statistics (2015) on road safety across the EU have just been released and they show remarkable progress over the last decade.

The UK scores well in improving road safety for children and the elderly. Between 2004 and 2013, fatalities of children (under 15 years of age) in the UK have fallen by almost 75% and those of older people (aged over 64) by a third. Over the same ten year period, UK cyclist fatalities have decreased by a third and those amongst pedestrians by two fifths.

However, year-on-year there is a slowdown in reducing the number of fatalities Europe-wide. Ultimately, the EU has set itself the ambitious target to reduce by half the number of fatalities between 2010 and 2020.

For more information about road safety across Europe from the ec.europa.eu website

World happiness report 2016

This report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness, with experts from a variety of fields (including health and public policy) describing how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations.

This year Denmark is ranked at number 1, while the UK is sitting at number 23.

To read the World Happiness Report on the worldhappiness.report website.

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 who.int website

To read Growing up unequal on the euro.who.int website

 

European strategy for women’s health

Just over half of the 900 million people living in the WHO European Region (463 million) are women and they are living longer than men. Their life expectancy is also increasing but these extra years (women’s “mortality advantage”) are not necessarily healthy years: on average, women spend 10 years in ill health.

The main causes of ill health and death among women differ across life stages and countries. Physical health conditions dominate in early life; depressive and anxiety disorders develop among young women moving into adult life; and lower back pain, ischaemic heart disease and cancers are more prevalent in older age.

Health inequities among women both within and between countries in the Region are large and unjustifiable. Equal access to health services has not been achieved for women living in rural areas, those from minority groups or those who are migrants, refugees or asylum seekers.

WHO/Europe is drawing on the evidence and experience of key experts in women’s health from national and local governments, academia, United Nations agencies, civil society and other partners to develop a European strategy for women’s health.

This strategy will focus on the determinants of women’s health, without necessarily comparing women with men. The aim is to inspire governments and stakeholders to work towards improving women’s and girls’ health and well-being beyond issues of reproductive, maternal and child health. The strategy will encourage taking action to reduce health inequities for women by, for example, eliminating discriminatory values, norms and practices; tackling the impact of gender and social, economic, cultural and environmental determinants; and improving health system responses to women’s health and well-being.

To read Beyond the mortality advantage:investigating women’s health in Europe on the who.int website

 

Encouraging healthy food choices

An EU-wide conference on Food Product Improvement was held earlier this year in Amsterdam which brought together representatives from the food industry, retail and supermarkets, NGOs and the EU member states. In addition, the World Health Organisation and non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland also took part – making this event the first time these organisations had come together on such a large scale.

The conference approved a “Roadmap for Action”, which calls for combined action to make food products healthier by gradually reducing the amount of salt, saturated fat and sugar (calories). This means a public-private partnership between experts from the member states and representatives of the food industry, patients’ associations and consumer organizations.

Several EU countries are already reducing salt, saturated fats and sugars in food products. This conference has paved the way for the Informal and Formal European Council meetings of the Ministers of Health later this spring where it is hoped to reach political agreement about implementation of the Roadmap.

To download the Roadmap for Action in English from the rijksoverheid.nl website