Health experts are sounding the alarm over an exponential rise in recent decades of obesity, which is posing a threat to the future health of the population. Indicatively, 38% of the population is overweight, while 32% is outright obese. Ominously, the problem has been detected at young age, with 21% of preschool children being overweight or obese, while the respective percentage of children aged between 10 and 12 is at 41%.
In Central European countries the corresponding percentages are 11% and 18%, and 15% and 25% on average in Europe overall.
The disheartening data for Greece were presented on Thursday by experts at a meeting organized by the Standing Committee on Social Affairs of Parliament.
Giannis Manios, a professor of nutrition education and assessment at the Harokopio University of Athens, referred to what he described as a pan-European issue of childhood obesity, which he linked to misconceptions among parents and educators, and the environment in which children grow up. Tellingly, he said the rates of overweight and obese children are higher in rural and provincial areas than in cities. However, inequalities are also recorded within cities. For example, the percentage of childhood obesity in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri has been measured at 3%, while it is at 5% in the southern suburb of Palaio Faliro, at 14% in Kallithea, south of central Athens, and in the southwestern suburb of Keratsini it is 20%. “This means that it depends on the environment of the neighborhood and the school, but also the educational level of the parents,” said Manios.
“Some 88% of parents of overweight or obese children consider their child’s weight normal and 20% of parents with children of normal weight consider their child to be underweight,” he added. For his part, professor of health economics and social policy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Yiannis Ifantopoulos noted that “children with a ‘healthy’ weight have a 13% higher performance in their lessons and education.”