Addressing Childhood Obesity in the Philippines

Around the world the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has increased substantially over the last decade. The Philippines is not spared from this scenario, and results of national nutrition surveys are showing slow but increasing childhood overweight and obesity rates. The 8th National Nutrition Survey reveals that the prevalence of overweight among children 0-5 years old has significantly risen from 1% in 1989 to 5% in 2013. Similarly, prevalence of overweight among children 5-10 years old has also risen from 5.8% in 2003 to 9.1% in 2013. The 2011 Global School-based Health Survey also shows that about 13% of adolescents in the Philippines are overweight and obese.

Evidence shows that overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. NCDs are now the leading killers in the Philippines, comprising more than 50% of all deaths each year.

To address the issue on childhood obesity, the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the National Nutrition Council of the Philippines organized a workshop in 2-4 June 2015 to develop a National Multisectoral Action Plan for the Prevention of Overweight and Obesity in the Philippines.

The workshop was organized and facilitated by staff from the WHO Headquarters, WHO Western Pacific Regional Office, WHO Country Office in the Philippines, and the Philippine National Nutrition Council (NNC). The WHO and NNC worked with multisectoral groups both at the national and subnational levels to identify priority areas of action and identified population-based cost-effective approaches and activities to address rising childhood obesity rates.

After the workshop, the NNC will take the lead and move forward to conduct a series of meetings and consultations to review and enhance the draft Prevention of Overweight and Obesity Plan in the Philippines. NNC will also lead the formation of a multisectoral technical working group, and they will move towards development of a policy adopting the plan to address childhood obesity, planning and overseeing implementing of an awareness raising campaign, and development of a monitoring and assessment tool to facilitateand guide implementation.

Dr Julie Hall WHO country representative in the Philippines opened the workshop and commended the initiative, "Governments have committed to global targets that call for a halt in the increase of overweight children and adolescent obesity. But many countries are not on track to meet these targets and while countries have policies on this, implementation remains a challenge. The WHO is pleased to collaborate with the Government of the Philippines as they take these positive steps to combat childhood obesity in the country."