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Nutrition, overweight and obesity in Europe

December has been a busy month for the European Commission, and Despina Spanou, Principal Adviser at the Directorate General for Health and Consumers, talks to EUFIC, about Europe’s Nutrition Strategy mid-term progress report, the evaluation of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, the OECD/EC report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2010”, and the Belgian Presidency/EC Conference on Monitoring and Evaluation of EU and Member States’ strategies on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related health issues.

The Implementation Progress report for the “Strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related health issues 2007-2013” has been published, as a mid-point to evaluate the extent to which progress has been made. It complements the 5 year evaluation of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which was published in July 2010 (see EUFIC/DG SANCO webinar on the EU platform evaluation).

Prevalence of obesity in Europe is probably the most important indicator for the measurement of progress, and the report “Health at a Glance: Europe 2010”, jointly published by the European Commission and the OECD, compiles data and statistics from the OECD, Eurostat and WHO. According to this report, over half the EU adult population is now overweight or obese, with the rate of obesity doubling over the past 20 years in most EU Member States. On average, just over 15% of the EU adult population is obese, with 1 in 7 children overweight or obese. This has considerable implications, not only on the health of the individual, but also on health systems and the wider economy.

If you have comments or questions with respect to the Commission’s mid-term progress report for the “Strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related health issues 2007-2013”, send them to before 31st January 2011.


Biography Despina Spanou
Since 1 April 2010, Despina Spanou is Principal Adviser at the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. She works on policy and communication and also chairs certain stakeholder fora, including the Platform for action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health and the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical activity as well as the Alcohol and Health Forum. She also represents the Directorate General for Health and Consumers at the High Level Forum on the Competitiveness of the food chain.

Despina Spanou started her career at the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition after having practised European competition and regulatory law for a number of years with the Brussels branch of a US law firm. She is a qualified lawyer and holds a Ph.D in European law from the University of Cambridge.

Despina Spanou was Deputy Head of Cabinet for Commissioner for Health and Consumers, Mr. Markos Kyprianou and for Commissioner for Health Mrs Androulla Vassiliou (2004-2010). During her time at the Cabinet, she acquired significant experience in the handling of a wide range of DG SANCO policy issues. She coordinated food chain issues, including the avian flu crisis in 2006, EU food trade relations with Russia and China and biotechnology. She also advised on public health policy files, including the first European Partnership on Action against Cancer and relations with third countries on health issues.

Relevant documents

A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues, COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES, Brussels, .2007 - 2013
Strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity related health issues, Implementation progress report December 2010, DG SANCO
Health at a Glance Europe 2010, OECD (2010), OECD Publishing.
EVALUATION OF THE EUROPEAN PLATFORM FOR ACTION ON DIET, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH, European Commission Directorate General Health and Consumers Directorate C “Health and Risk Assessment”, Brussels, Belgium, Specific Contract No 2, Final report, July 2010, The Evaluation Partnership
Annexes to the Final report of the Evaluation of the EU Platform July 2010
EUFIC/DG SANCO webinar on evaluation of EU platform, 25 September 2010
EU Physical Activity Guidelines, Recommended Policy Actions in Support of Health-Enhancing Physical Activity, Brussels, 10 October 2008 
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The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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This site was last updated 29/08/2016
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