- Nutrition

Award-winning study driven by WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative – World Health Organization

Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland (RAMI)

Author of the study, Dr Silvia Bel-Serrat, receives award at the Research Awards 2018 ceremony of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

A publication based on the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) recently received the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland Research Award 2018. The research on school sociodemographic characteristics and obesity in Ireland was published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health.

Selected out of 20 shortlisted publications from all over the country, the research won in the category of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, which had the largest number of entries. The Award was open to all those involved in Irish medical research.

The article, entitled “School sociodemographic characteristics and obesity in schoolchildren: does the obesity definition matter?”, describes the findings of research on the links between sociodemographic variables as risk factors for overweight and obesity in Irish school-aged children.

Irish findings go beyond national scope

The COSI-based study shows that school socioeconomic status is a crucial determinant of overweight and obesity in Irish schoolchildren, with no link to school location. The novelty of the study is the evidence that these associations may be dependent on age and sex. Thus, age and sex should be considered to devise more targeted strategies that factor in the socioeconomic aspects.

The study divided children into groups of those younger than and older than 10.5 years. It showed that Irish girls in disadvantaged schools ran a higher risk of being overweight or obese regardless of their age, whereas boys in these same schools tended to be overweight or obese only when 10.5 years and older.

As they approach adolescence, children in disadvantaged schools are in need of special attention around obesity prevention and treatment as well as health promotion policies to respond to the challenge of the growing problem.
Although the study focused on Ireland, it has broad relevance and can inform tailored interventions and prevention programmes for children across the WHO European Region and beyond.

WHO methodology informs research

Irish researchers based their work on the COSI methodology. COSI is a joint study launched by WHO/Europe in 2008 with 13 Member States, and which now involves a total of 42 European countries using a common European approach.

Built on nationally representative samples and standardized weight and height measurements, COSI is a unique system that provides big data to monitor the progress of the obesity epidemic in schoolchildren.