The Impact of COVID-19 on Childhood Obesity

On 28 June, EACA joined the webinar “Childhood obesity – what are the root causes of the growing pandemic?” organised by the World Obesity. The webinar discussed the impact of the pandemic on childhood obesity and gave some advice on how to combat this problem by having a healthier eating style.

Obesity-related conditions appear to worsen the effects of COVID-19. As pointed out by the (CDC), “. People living with severe obesity may have multiple serious chronic diseases and underlying health conditions that may increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.” In addition to the immediate health impacts, this global pandemic will have several long-term effects on food systems, physical activity environments, mental health, healthcare systems and more.

. Researchers worldwide are urging policymakers to consider ways to address some of the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a potential increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity. To limit the transmission of the virus, governments across Europe have taken various measures, including closing schools. As children stay at home, many miss out on subsidised school lunches, structured physical activity sessions and are more likely to have access to long-life food, including energy-dense, nutrient-poor food.

WHO/Europe has published a guide on eating healthily during the COVID-19 self-quarantine. It contains nutrition information to help keep the immune system strong. It also has suggestions for a diet that supports good health.

According to the WHO, to reduce obesity, at an individual level, people can:

  • limit energy intake from fat and total sugars.
  • Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
  • Engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes per day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).

the above recommendations can be supported with f evidence-based and population-based policies that make regular physical activity and healthier food choices available, affordable, and easily accessible to all. An example of such a policy is a tax on sugary drinks. In fact, the food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets:

  • reducing the fat, sugar, and salt content of processed foods.
  • Ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and accessible to all consumers.
  • Restricting the marketing of foods high in sugar, salt, and fat, especially those aimed at children and adolescents.
  • Ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity in the workplace.