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Childhood obesity can be prevented: from FLVS study to the EPODE methodology

Prevention strategies for "civilization related disorders" should consider two main areas: changing the environment and changing behaviour.

Changing the environment

Changing the environment depends on processes linked to community health and sustainable development policies. Governments have a major role to play defining nutritional norms and standards, defining nutritional, food and physical activity policies, for example:
Removing vending machines from schools, restricting food and non-alcoholic beverage promotion to children, preparing recommendations on nutritional content of food items, strengthening food and non-alcoholic beverage labelling, promoting physical activity, supporting the development of public transport etc.

Changing the behaviour

All of these measures aim at modifying the environment. However, actions that have proven to be effective in the fight against smoking addiction, often used as an example, could not be as effective without sustainable behavioural changes.
An experiment carried out in Northern Karelia (Finland), aimed at reducing disease risk factors and improving the health of the population, has taken both environment and behaviour patterns into consideration (Puska, 2002). Emphasis was placed on changes that affected lifestyle, eating habits and tobacco addiction.
The results were outstanding: over 5000 premature deaths were prevented in Northern Karelia. Since 1977, the project has been extended to the whole country. As a result, life expectancy at birth has increased by six years.
The conclusions show that it is possible to increase nutritional knowledge and levels of physical exercise and to limit sedentary lifestyle in children through actions implemented in the school setting.