Turkey Takes Action on Obesity Prevention

Hey Youth! Take Action’, launched in Istanbul in February 2018 and brings a fresh approach to tackling two of the principal causes of obesity and diabetes – poor diet and lack of physical activity.

The YHP Turkey programme’s design builds upon a test phase run in a school, but adds an experimental twist.  Whilst the core of the programme is based around educational workshops and seminars, such as have been run in Brazil and Romania, first year high-school students are invited to make videos on how to achieve a healthier lifestyle to share with their friends and the wider world.

These are expected to be varied and will be hosted on the ‘Hey Youth! Take Action’ website. Prizes will be awarded for the ‘most viewed’, and ‘most liked’ entries as well as for the school that sends in the greatest number of entries.

Creating the videos will encourage students to think more deeply about the issues and get much more actively engaged with the subject. They will also bring fresh creativity to bear on how to communicate effectively with their peers - providing insights that can be used elsewhere.

This success of the programme will be evaluated by measuring changes in awareness and attitude about diet and exercise, from the start to the end of the programme.

The new programme has been launched by AstraZeneca Turkey in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, the Turkey Diabetes Foundation and the Foundation for Education of Children (TOCEV) and aims to reach 11.000 participation in 56 schools in 9 cities over a period of three years.

As AstraZeneca Country President Serkan Baris said, the aim is to “help our youth to be raised as healthy individuals and contribute to a healthy general public”. This task is huge as Turkey has significant problems with overweight and obesity in both children and adults. 

For many children poor health habits start early in life. In 2013 the COSI-TUR1 study found that even at the age of 7-8 years old 21.6% of girls, and 23.3% of boys were overweight or obese2. This translates into major problems later in life with 66.3% of adults in Turkey estimated to be overweight (Body Mass Index of at least 25) and 29.5% obese (BMI at least 30) in 20143.

Poor diet and lack of physical activity are closely interlinked – as Turkey Diabetes Foundation President Prof. Temel Yilmaz puts it ‘Obesity in youth is especially triggered by inactivity and poor diet habits. Scientists are studying to determine which comes first but the answer is they are both equally responsible’.

TOCEV Director of Board Ms. Ebru Uygun highlighted the ‘health and dynamism’ of the approach and the role that ‘creative thinking’ among young people can have in transforming its effectiveness.

Over twenty countries throughout the world have now benefited from AstraZeneca-sponsored YHP programmes that aim to improve the health of young people, and particularly to reduce behaviours that are likely to lead to non-communicable diseases such as heart and respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes in later life. These programmes are complimented by ground-breaking research to bring new insights and with advocacy to help to move activity to larger scale – by for example working in concert with governments.

 

References

[1] Türkiye Çocukluk Çağı (7-8 yaş) Şişmanlık Araştırması (COSI-TUR)- 2013, Sağlık Bakanlığı, Türkiye Halk Sağlığı Kurumu, Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, Hacettepe Üniversitesi, Sağlık Bakanlığı Yayın No: 921, Ankara, 2014.

[2] Türkiye Çocukluk Çağı (7-8 yaş) Şişmanlık Araştırması (COSI-TUR)- 2013, Sağlık Bakanlığı, Türkiye Halk Sağlığı Kurumu, Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, Hacettepe Üniversitesi, Sağlık Bakanlığı Yayın No: 921, Ankara, 2014.

[3] http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/148114/1/9789241564854_eng.pdf  p231