In Spain, at least one in three children under 5 years old- 200 million- are not fed properly: they are malnourished or overweight or obese. This has been determined by a new report published yesterday by UNICEF entitled The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, Food, and Nutrition. The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, Food, and Nutrition.
To mark this publication and World Food Day, celebrated today, October 16th, the Gasol Foundation- the foundation of the Gasol brothers whose objective is to fight against childhood obesity- has collaborated with UNICEF Spanish Committee to elaborate on the Malnutrition, Childhood Obesity, and Childhood Rights report in Spain. It includes figures from the PASOS 2019 Study conducted by the Gasol Foundation, such as those related to the prevalence of overweight and childhood obesity in our country, which today affects more than a third of children (34.9%). “Millions of children in the world are eating very little of what they need and a lot of what they don’t. An inadequate diet implies risks for the health of our children and adolescents and not only for physical health,since obesity is also related to poor school performance and increases the chances of suffering from self-esteem disorders” says Gustavo Suárez Pertierra, president of UNICEF Spanish Committee.
These alarming figures are related to an excess of unhealthy habits among the youngest children. For example, based on the Study PASOS, we know that more than half of children and adolescents (54%) do not comply, during the week, with the recommendations of the WHO (World Health Organization) for the use of screens- television, computer tablet, mobile or video games- which set the limit in the two daily hours. In addition, the percentage rises to almost 80% when it comes to the weekend. The study also reveals that 63.6% of children and adolescents do not reach 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity (one that accelerates the heart rate and breathing) WHO recommends for 7 days a week.
“As UNICEF Global Advocate for Nutrition and the End of Childhood Obesity and president of the Gasol Foundation, I would like to call on society for children and adolescents to acquire good eating habits, perform a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, sleep a sufficient number of hours according to their age, and grow in an emotional and safe environment that allows them to reach their full potential” says Pau Gasol, president of the Gasol Foundation.
Recommendations of the Gasol Foundation and UNICEF
To fight against this situation and prevent childhood obesity, UNICEF Spanish Committee and the Gasol Foundation call on public administrations, the private sector, donors, fathers and mothers, and families, to put into place these recommendations to help children grow up in a healthy way.
- Inform, sensitize, and empower families, children, and adolescents to promote the demand for nutritious and healthy food. The demand for food has to do with the information, behavior, and aspirations of consumers. When healthy options are more affordable, accessible and desirable, parents and caregivers make better choices in their children’s nutrition. In turn, better information and knowledge on the part of children and adolescents allows them to be agents of change. It is not just about educating on the benefits of a healthy diet, but also connecting with your social and cultural aspirations.
- Guide food producers and suppliers to do their best for children. It is not enough to promote the demand for better food by households without promoting a healthier supply. States play a fundamental role in establishing adequate regulation and incentives to respect and promote the interest of children in this area. The private food sector has a very important role, from small farmers and small and medium enterprises to multinational food corporations, to ensure and promote a healthier supply and eating habits. In accordance with this, the promotion of reformulation of products with healthier ingredients is requested, among other aspects such as reducing their content in added sugars, salt, and saturated fats.
- Build healthy eating environments for all children. The personal, domestic, and social environment of children and their parents is where they interact with the food system. Some of the proposed actions: to establish a simple, visible and easily readable labeling on the front of their products that adequately report their nutritional quality, as well as in the letters of catering services; regulate and limit marketing and advertising of products with excess sugar and unhealthy foods aimed at children and adolescents; improve spaces and activities of play and sport, and its accessibility for all children; or facilitate breastfeeding and provision of adequate time and spaces for it, at work and in public places.
- Mobilize other systems and services to improve nutrition outcomes for all children. While the food system is essential for children’s nutrition, other systems are key in accessing quality nutrition: the health, water and sanitation system, the education and social protection system, contribute significantly to a healthy diet. Thus, it is proposed to create a healthy environment and limit obesogenic influences in educational centers and extend the teaching time for physical activity and sports.
- Collect, analyze, and use quality data regularly to guide actions and assess progress. Evidence-based actions require a better understanding of the problem of malnutrition,
Access the Malnutrition, Childhood Obesity, and Childhood Rights report in Spain for more information.