The Minister for Health and Consumer Affairs, Elena Salgado, has submitted a program to promote healthy eating and physical activity among Spanish schoolchildren, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science and with the six autonomous communities which have a higher prevalence of childhood obesity (Canary Islands, Andalusia, Murcia, Castilla y León, Galicia and Extremadura), plus the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
Obesity in Spain is becoming a very important health problem, especially among children, since in two decades, obesity in children between 6 and 12 years increased from 5% to 16%. The social, occupational and lifestyle experienced in Spanish society has changed eating habits and increased sedentary lifestyle.
Elena Salgado has stressed that, therefore, it is necessary to take measures in time, "because otherwise, an obese child with high probability will be obese adult, with the risk involved of certain diseases associated such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and some cancers. These chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in industrialized countries, in particular, obesity can shorten life expectancy of a person up to ten years. "
Therefore, the Ministry of Health has decided to act on this problem at school, where she acquired many of the habits of life and therefore the most appropriate means to develop prevention programs for health. To refine the implementation of the program a reunion with the Minister of Health of the six autonomous regions that will participate in this initiative and the Director of Ingesa, the agency that manages healthcare in Ceuta and Melilla was held this morning at the headquarters of the Department.
Involvement of schools
The program will be developed in a pilot phase during 2006-07 and will address the students of Primary Education, of between 6 and 10 years, and their families. The Ministry of Health will fund one million euros this initiative, which aims to achieve both personal and social change in eating habits, as in the physical activity of children.
The first phase will involve about 12,000 students and was conducted in 64 schools in the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Murcia, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Galicia and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla. A team composed of experts in nutrition education and prepared educational materials and providing specific training for trainers involved in this program.
The specific objectives of the intervention will improve the distribution of food intake throughout the day to reduce the percentage of students who dispenses with the breakfast or other food, reduce fat and unhealthy sugars, increase the daily consumption of fruits, vegetables and water, promoting the participation of physical exercise and reducing the time devoted to television, videogames and computers.
In addition to educational materials developed specifically for the program, they will create a website that will serve both to disseminate the program to facilitate communication and exchange of experiences among the participating schools.
Two phases of intervention
During the first part of the course until January, will finalize the training materials, selected schools will be in contact with the health centers in the area and carried out the training of educators, policy makers and caregivers of school meals and physical education teacher. As of January 2007 will begin direct intervention on school children and their families.
"We believe that with this program we have taken a step in the NAOS strategy and I'm sure we will contribute decisively to reverse the rising trend of childhood obesity in Spain. A task that undoubtedly will require a sustained effort over the medium and long term that includes giving priority to initiatives that we expect to happen with this project, have proved more effective, "said Elena Salgado.
One Year of NAOS strategy
In February 2005, the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs presented the NAOS Strategy of prevention of obesity and promoting physical activity in order to sensitize the population about the problem of obesity and involve the different social sectors in the implementation of initiatives from different levels (family and community, school, business, health, research and development and monitoring and evaluation), which ensure that citizens, especially children and young people adopt healthy habits for life.
With this objective is incorporated into this strategy other ministerial departments, autonomous communities, municipalities and more than 80 associations of different sectors. After a year of life, the NAOS strategy, developed by the Spanish Agency for Food Safety has been well received by various international organizations including the World Health Organization and the European Commission have proposed that the Spanish model as an example to be followed by other countries.
In this first year, initiatives have been developed to reduce levels of fat, sugar and salt in food, have promoted the prevention and investigation of this disease, improving the information provided to consumers in the products, has published books and brochures and has promoted a code of self-regulation of food advertising directed at minors. All this, supported by an extensive network of agreements with private enterprises, municipalities, the scientific societies and various public and private entities.
The numbers of obesity
Recent studies indicate that one in two Canadian adults has overweight and about 14% is obese. The rise in obesity is also an increase in certain diseases associated with it, such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In addition to the health problems caused by overweight and obesity, diseases that are associated with it pose a large economic burden. It is estimated that in developed countries, the direct and indirect costs of these diseases reach 7% of total health expenditure, which in Spain is around 3,000 million euros a year.