Cancer prevention included in WHO strategy to tackle child obesity

We influence the World Health Organization to include cancer prevention in its final report on reducing the global child obesity epidemic

25 January 2016

Today, the World Health Organization published the first comprehensive and integrated global strategy to tackle the child obesity epidemic. Published by its high-level Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, the report highlights the importance of addressing child obesity to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.

World Cancer Research Fund International successfully advocated for the report to include a recommendation that nutrition education be included in the school curriculum, that standards are set for meals, food and drinks available on school premises, and to highlight the link between physical activity and a decreased risk of cancer.

Our analysis of research shows that adults who are physically active have a decreased risk of 3 cancers. Other research shows that food preferences start in the womb and continue throughout life. So if children are taught to make healthier choices early on, they have a better chance of maintaining those healthy habits into adolescence and adulthood.

In 2014 an estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese around the world, up from 31 million in 1990; and the latest global figures show that 81% of adolescents aged 11-17 are insufficiently physically active. The World Health Organization’s European physical activity strategy recommends that children and young people accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity every day.

The WHO Commission is urging countries around the world to take comprehensive action to implement the report’s recommendations, which also includes the need for an effective tax on sugary drinks, restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks, a standardised global nutrient labelling system, and improving access to healthy foods and physical activity in schools.

Our full statement in response to the report can be read here.