Unfavorable socio-economic background – risk factor for overweight and obesity in children

"Unfavorable socio-economic background – risk factor for overweight and obesity in children"

PRAIS Foundation, promoter of the national movement “I’m living healthy, too! – SETS”, is responsible for implementing in Romania the 3 year-pan-European project initiated by EPHE “EPODE for the promotion of health equity”. The activities are focused on a representative sample of 180 families living in the Otopeni community, as well as of other 6 similar communities in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria.

EPHE integrates the expertize of the institutional partners and renowned members of the academic society to assess 4 main areas of intervention: water consumption, diversity in fruit and vegetable consumption, inactivity and sleeping program. The first stage involved the drafting of the EPHE reference study, an analysis exploring and identifying the behavior inequities as well as their underlying factors, within the selected socio-economic categories. 1,266 children and their families participated in the survey, of which over 170 were selected from the Romanian community.

„The EPHE study proves that the parents’ socio-economic status is a determining factor influencing lifestyle habits, and by default the incidence of overweight and obesity in children. Thus, children from families with high socio-economic status eat more fruits and vegetables and spend less time in front of the TV as compared to those from families with a low socio-economic status. As coordinators of the project implementation in the 7 countries, we support the necessity of further analysis of all risk factors that may lead to child obesity, in order to be able to prevent such situation”, declared Silvia Bucur, President of PRAIS Foundation.

Children living in the Romanian community rank 4 in fruit consumption after those from the Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Netherlands communities, yet they eat more fruits as compared to the children in Belgium and France (chart 1*).

The study points out that the parents’ level of education may also be a cause of the gap detected in terms of fruit consumption between families with a higher socio-economic status and those with a low socio-economic status. When it comes to the consumption of vegetables, regardless of the socio-economic status of the family, the children in our community receive their share of vegetables from 2 to 4 times a week.

Monitoring the time spent in front of the screen. The EPHE study shows that a Romanian child spends an average of 22.7 hours per week in front of the screen (computer or TV), while in Netherlands and Belgium the time spent totals approximately 15 hours. Our country is only capped by Bulgaria, with 25 hours (chart 2**). The time spent in front of the computer is equally monitored within the target socio-economic groups: 50% of parents control the time their children spend in front of the screen.

The EPHE study will be succeeded by 2 follow-up assessments, measuring the impact of the activities comprised in the national movement “I’m living healthy, too! – SETS” on the target community in Romania based on the EPODE educational, information and activation methodologies. The impact of the similar programs implemented in the other 6 countries will also be evaluated, as EPHE’s aim is to determine the extent to which the health inequalities (diet and physical activity) may be reduced through constant awareness and education on a healthy lifestyle among the young generation and their families.

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