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Qatar Foundation’s initiative, WISH, shared the report findings with delegates at the Eastern Mediterranean Region Healthy Cities Conference 2023

Doha, Qatar, 21 November 2023: A new report by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) – a Qatar Foundation initiative – in collaboration with Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), has focused on recommendations for policy makers across the country to take action to significantly decrease childhood obesity in Qatar.
The report was presented to delegates at the Eastern Mediterranean Region Healthy Cities Conference 2023, a major event organized by the MOPH and the World Health Organization (WHO), which took place in Doha and brought together international experts to help advance urban health strategies and lead the way towards healthier cities and communities across the region and beyond.

Other topics of discussion also included the impact and legacy of major sporting events on health and well-being in cities, how to address climate change in a dry, urban environment, and how to promote physical activity in cities across the region.

During a session at the conference, Maha El Akoum, Manager of Content and Policy at WISH, focused on the long-term health risks associated with childhood obesity, and discussed the need to better tackle obesity in general in urban settings.

Commenting on why WISH has decided to shine a spotlight on childhood obesity both at the conference and in the report, El Akoum says: “More than one billion people worldwide are obese, 39 million of whom are children under the age of five, and 340 million are adolescents.

“In Qatar, childhood obesity affects 27.7% of the population. Given its multi-factorial nature, it is imperative that governments take a multi-sectoral approach to addressing this global epidemic, and for this reason the report proposes a model that addresses policies at multiple levels and across a range of government sectors.”

Obesity is known to lead to long term health problems such a diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can be distressing for individuals, life limiting, and can put significant strain on health systems.

The WISH and MOPH report aims to not only draw attention to childhood obesity – in Qatar, more than a quarter of children are clinically obese, with similar levels found in countries across the region – but to also offer innovative solutions, particularly by suggesting ways that national policies can be developed to encourage healthy behaviors that lead to a decrease in the prevalence of obesity.

The commitment of Qatar’s MOPH to using a holistic, forward-thinking approach to building a healthier society, means that Qatar is well placed to markedly reduce obesity levels in the country.
“Some examples of policies that we will be recommending in our report on childhood obesity, which has been developed in collaboration with colleagues at Qatar Foundation and the Ministry of Public Health, include evidence-based interventions at a governmental level such as restricting the marketing to children of food and drinks high in fats, sugar and salt, taxing unhealthy foods and drinks, and providing better access to affordable, healthy food,” El Akoum says.

“It will also include recommendations for urban cities to build accessible spaces for safe walking, cycling, and recreation, and for schools to help households teach children healthy eating habits from an early age.”

The full report will be published in the first quarter of 2024.

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