WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative in Serbia: a prevalence of overweight and obesity among 6–9-year-old school children

Visnja Djordjic 1 , Snezana Radisavljevic 2 , Ivana Milanovic 2 , Predrag Bozic 3 , Miljana Grbic 4 , Jagoda Jorga 5  and Sergej M. Ostojic 1 , 5
  • 1 Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia
  • 2 Faculty of Sport and Physical Education, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
  • 3 National Institute of Sport and Sports Medicine, Belgrade, Serbia
  • 4 World Health Organization National Office for Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia
  • 5 University of Belgrade School of Medicine, Belgrade, Serbia
Visnja Djordjic, Snezana Radisavljevic, Ivana Milanovic, Predrag Bozic, Miljana Grbic, Jagoda Jorga and Sergej M. Ostojic

Abstract

Background:

The World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) is a public health program established in order to understand the progress of the obesity epidemic in young populations and gain inter-country comparisons within the European region, yet the data from a number of East European countries, including Serbia, were not available then. Therefore, the main aim of this cross-sectional study was to collect data about the prevalence of overweight and obesity among 6–9-year-old school children in Serbia according to the standardized protocol during the Fourth COSI Implementation Round.

Methods:

From September 2015 to November 2015, 5102 first- and second-grade primary-school children (age 7.7±0.6 years) were assessed for weight, height, and body mass index (BMI) in 14 Serbian school districts.

Results:

The prevalence rates of obesity, as calculated using the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) cut-off points, vary across different age groups, with the lowest obesity rates reported in 7-year-old boys (6.2%), while the highest obesity prevalence rates were observed in 6-year-old boys (9.7%). In addition, being overweight was strongly associated with poor local community development and lower level of urbanization. The overall prevalence of overweight (23.1%, including obesity) and obesity (6.9%) in Serbian primary-school children seem to be comparable to rather high rates previously reported in other countries participating in the COSI program, indicating an obesity epidemic in Serbian children.

Conclusions:

This surveillance system should be regularly implemented throughout Europe, providing comparable data on rates of overweight/obesity in primary schools that might drive prudent actions to reverse the pandemic trend of childhood obesity.

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