Healthy Breakfast: tackling European obesity epidemic

26 April 2016

On 26 April 2016 EHMA took part in the breakfast event ‘Healthy Breakfast: tackling European obesity epidemic‘ hosted by MEP Alfred Sant (S&D, Malta) and organised by EASO – European Association for the Study of Obesity focusing on tackling Europe’s rising obesity epidemic. The initiative presented at the event involves several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), led by MEP Alfred Sant, who launched a written declaration calling for the European Commission and the European Council to work towards a Europe-wide recognition of obesity as a chronic disease. The MEPs who initiated the written declaration are MEP Enrico Gasbarra (S&D), MEP Marc Tarabella (S&D), MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo (EFDD), MEP Patricija ŠULIN (PPE), MEP Giovanni La Via (PPE), MEP Tomáš Zdechovský (PPE), MEP Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE), MEP Edward Czesak (ECR), and MEP Ángela Vallina (GUE/NGL).

The declaration highlights the alarming prediction that by 2030 over 50% of Europeans will be obese, with some countries exceeding 90% of overweight or obese people. Presenting the declaration, MEP Sant stressed that

obesity is already estimated to cost the European Union €70 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity; with the total burden likely to be even higher, as obesity causes many other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers”.

MEP Sant described obesity as complex and caused by many different factors, including medical, cultural and socioeconomic dynamics. He also emphasised that “better prevention and treatment of obesity will provide tangible healthcare system savings, as well as reducing the suffering of the millions affected”, underlining the urgent need to recognise obesity as a disease in order to ensure better mobilisation of resources when it comes to the prevention, treatment and care of the disease.

Among other speakers at the event were Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the EU; Dr Nathalie Farpour-Lambert, President Elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO); and Ms Ellen Govers, from the European Federation of the Association of Dietitians. Dr Bertollini said that both societies and governments need to act to tackle the growing obesity epidemic:

National policies should encourage and provide opportunities for greater physical activity, and improve the affordability, availability and accessibility of healthy foods. They should also encourage the involvement of different government sectors, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders”.

Dr Farpour-Lambert mentioned the importance of re-tailoring and ameliorating health workforce training to give health professionals enhanced competences to better tackle obesity and childhood obesity.



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I have been active in EHMA since the first years of the '90s and I have seen its evolution from a small association of members interested in sharing knowledge on health management practices to the current status of reference and advisory key player for EU, health systems and organisations, stakeholders associations, industry and universities. EHMA is now a unique knowledge hub, policy advisor, community of practice and network of best in class organisations involved in health policy and management. A place where health managers can build their competences, policy-makers and stakeholder associations envision how to implement and sustain change through health management, industry leaders understand how to engage more effectively with health organisations and systems. The right place to nurture and grow health management capabilities and capacity for every stakeholder of health systems.

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Health management has a crucial function in shaping public health and health system challenges. The Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria had success in collaborating with EHMA on EU-funded projects that has resourced us to create new health management competencies for the future workforce. In addition to all classical definitions, health management is a science dealing with individuals, groups, and society at large. It is an art contributing to the beauty of our lives and an interactive communication process at all levels of institutions and human energy. I have also had the pleasure to chair the South Eastern European Special Interest Group which gives members a space to discuss and tools to address how health systems are managed in our regions.

Prof. Todorka Kostadinova, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria

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Prof. Sandra C. Buttigieg, University of Malta, Malta

EHMA is a pre-eminent organisation for everyone working in planning, managing and delivering health services across Europe. As a long standing member of EHMA I have always been impressed by the vibrant community of managers, researchers and academics it has created and by the many opportunities for sharing knowledge and funding opportunities it has brought to its members. Its international scope is impressive and its impact is often felt in management and research across European and national health systems.

Prof. Axel Kaehne, Edge Hill University, UK

Health workforce has become more essential in operating, managing and maintaining health systems lately, particularly in crisis and emergency situations. European healthcare professions and the workforce need to be high on the agenda of managers and decision makers. The Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University in Hungary is a longstanding EHMA member, because it connects us with collaborators and experts, with whom we can have complex debates, from whom we can learn and at the end find solutions in various challenging fields of healthcare management.

Dr Eszter Kovács, Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University, Hungary

As a hospital administrator and health management professor, I see on a daily basis that the healthcare challenges require talented and skilled managers to transform it. the EHMA membership has been beneficial to bring healthcare management research and education to the demanding healthcare services world, promoting healthcare management competencies and knowledge creation.

Dr Alexandre Lourenco, APAH - Association of Portuguese Hospital Managers, Portugal

Many healthcare systems in Europe and beyond are facing similar challenges which require innovative and creative solutions. EHMA’s annual conference, webinars, Programme Directors’ group and other activities and resources provide incredible opportunities for networking, connecting and sharing experiences. A distinct feature of EHMA is the diversity of members with representation from many countries, sectors and different communities of practice – academic, policy-makers, practitioners, managers, leaders and students. The annual conference is a highlight in the calendar year, offering a friendly, fun and learningful environment for emerging and established members to engage, collaborate and meet up with old and new friends. I am proud to be a member of the EHMA Board.

Prof. Ann Mahon, University of Manchester, UK

Society evolution, pandemics and ageing modify health needs. So, health policies and services are to change dramatically. EHMA, through webinars, workshops and annual conference provides an excellent insight to a professional changing world, favouring closeness to management innovation and the protagonists of these changes. As a primary care services’ manager, participating in EHMA activities is really worth it and allows to involve oneself in the innovation processes.

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