Prevalence of childhood obesity is very high in Europe. According to the recent COSI study by WHO, 19.3-49.0% of boys and 18.4-42.5% of girls were overweight (including obesity and based on the 2007 WHO growth reference).The prevalence of obesity ranged from 6.0 to 26.6% among boys and from 4.6 to 17.3% among girls. Multi-country comparisons suggest the presence of a north-south gradient with the highest level of overweight found in southern European countries (Pediatric Obesity, 2013).
As such, there is an immense need for the development of effective treatments. Worldwide, medical personnel and researchers are making great efforts to develop treatments that will fulfil this need. The two most recent Cochrane reviews on prevention and treatment (2009, 2011) concluded that as of yet there is not a defined long-term effective and sustainable intervention thus multiple research groups are investigating their own treatment approaches. As of June 2013 the American Medical Association officially recognised obesity as a disease and this decision will lead to more focused approach around the world with regard to an individual access to treatment and in relation to the type of treatment that they receive.
Paediatric obesity research is conducted in a vulnerable group of patients and families. Many families live in low-income neighbourhoods. The negative association with parental education is repeatedly seen even in highly developed European countries. Many obese children suffer from significant emotional problems ranging from overt depression to disturbed eating behaviour. Added to this, obesity carries a social stigma that adversely affects children as well as their families.
When considering future development of care, it is worthwhile to remember that childhood obesity is a long-term condition with associated co-morbidities, many of which are not always readily identifiable. Clinical studies suggest that almost 50% of obese children exhibit pre- or grade 1 or 2 high blood pressure hypertension, another 29% exhibit high cholesterol levels, 44% exhibit more than 5% fat in their livers and 74% exhibit more than 5% fat in their muscles. Additionally, may children suffer from endocrinological, orthopaedic and psychological. Furthermore, future health risks loom and a significant risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and cancer seems to be non-ignorable in adulthood.