EU health platform opts for “flexible approach” as obesity rises

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

EU health platform opts for “flexible approach” as obesity rises

Related tags: Member states, European union

Ten years after the first European Commission reports were handed in, with little in the way of demonstrable obesity-reduction results, the European Union Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health is taking “a flexible approach” over coming years to tackling obesity rates that continue to rise in most of the bloc’s 27 member states.

Despina Spanou, special advisor to the European Commission’s Director General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco), told a congress in Brussels last week that the Platform needed better working methods and that individual member states were being given the flexibility to develop these.

“But it will be a flexible approach which must take account of diet specificities in member states, and efforts in the Platform context,”​ she told the 5th Annual European Nutrition and Lifestyle Conference.

Spanou said the Platform, formalised and launched in 2005 to tackle rising rates of obesity in the EU, would have four main points of focus between now and 2013.

These are:

  • Vulnerable groups
  • Kids advertising
  • Communications on sports and physical activities
  • Reformulation

“All member states are to develop a strategy to strengthen health promotion and disease prevention,” ​she said of the Platform that went under review by the European Union presidency in December, 2010.

An earlier evaluation had shown results in reformulation and children’s advertising.

Spanou said the EU needed to work more closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), a group that had adopted the European Charter on Counteracting Obesity in Istanbul, Turkey in late 2006.

That expansion of the Platform meant 34 members signed up and they implemented 148 commitments by 2007.

Malta, Greece, the UK, Germany, Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Portugal had the greatest numbers of people with body mass indexes (BMIs) of more than 25 and therefore classed as overweight.


She said recent meetings of Platform stakeholders had determined reformulation initiatives with a focus on saturated fat; trans fat; energy; total fat; added sugars; portion sizes, and consumption frequency.

“A clear framework for reformulating selected nutrients must be in place and where possible, specific targets must be endorsed by national initiatives,”​ Spanou said.

Amendment: This story has been amended to reflect the fact that, "little in the way of demonstrable results" ​in fact related to, "obesity-reduction results".

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1 comment

Inaccurate reflections on the EU Platform

Posted by Dr Josephine Wills, EUFIC,

The EU Platform for Action was established in March 2005 - 6 years ago. Your comment "with little in the way of demonstrable results" is more the result of a limited, readable external communications programme from the Commission, about the achievements of the 297 commitments. The Platform underwent an evaluation process in 2009/10, and the results can be found here:

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