WHO report reveals huge health disparities among European adolescents

Based on information from 44 countries participating in the Health Behavior in School-Age Children (HBSC) study, it highlights unhealthy eating habits, increasing levels of overweight and obesity as well as such as low levels of physical activity in young people.

According to WHOeach of these is “significant risk factors for a range of non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Unhealthy eating

The report found that teenagers were making essentially unhealthy food choices, with more than half of them – 56% of boys and 51% of girls aged 15 – reporting it. don’t eat fruits or vegetables every day.

On a more positive note, soda consumption has decreased significantly since children were last studied in 2018, however, 15% of teens still consume soda every day with a higher rate of people from less wealthy families.

Director of Child and Adolescent Health Programs at WHO/Europe Dr. Martin Weber said: “Work Affordability and access to healthy food options are often limited for lower-income familiesleading to greater reliance on processed and sugary foods, which can have adverse effects on adolescent health.”

Obesity and physical inactivity

The impact of lower socioeconomic status carries with it the likelihood of being overweight or obese, with one in five children affected.

While WHO recommends that young children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day, the report found that adolescents from more affluent families had higher MVPA levels every day. day – 16% vs. 26%.

The organization says this is possible because teens from low-income families may have it less access to “safe spaces for physical activity” and participation in organized sports may be influenced by family income.”

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said “Socioeconomic differences in adolescent health behaviors contribute to a vicious cycle of disadvantage.”

Dr. Kluge said the findings from the report should signal the need for interventions for adolescents to motivate them to adopt healthier behaviors.

Recommendations and support

WHO is calling on member states to take urgent action to address these behaviors among adolescents.

The organization recommends that countries implement regulations related to food marketing management, promote healthier eating, increase physical activity and address social inequalities.

Dr. Weber said that addressing adolescent health will require “a combination of interventions at the individual, family, community and policy levels.” He said there needs to be an environment that supports healthy choices among young people.

Dr. Kluge agrees and adds that “By addressing the underlying factors that contribute to the unhealthy behaviors that fuel the inequality epidemic, we can improve the health and well-being of young people.reducing health disparities and building a healthier future for all.”

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