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France moves to tackle growing problem of childhood obesity

Overweight and obese children have become a major public health problem in recent years, said France’s social security provider

Children aged 3 to 12 will be eligible for the plan, which is designed to encourage them to eat more healthily, exercise more, and receive counselling to help avoid weight gain Pic: moreimages / Shutterstock

New steps to tackle and prevent childhood obesity have been taken in France. 

Social security provider l’Assurance maladie says it will pay for 3-12 year-olds - who are overweight or at risk of becoming so - to go on a special treatment programme.

It said the move was due to the “worrying rise of obesity in the youngest” people in society, with 17% of 6-17-year-olds overweight and 4% obese.

In 2000, 2.6% of 18-24 year-olds were obese, according to the national health research institute Inserm. That has risen to 9.2% by 2020.

The problem, it added, can lead to “proven risks” like diabetes, some cancers, and cardiovascular problems. 

As a result, it will roll out a diet, physical activity, and/or psychological counselling programme to help.

Already, a trial has shown positive results. The programme, called ‘Mission retrouve ton cap’, has been successfully tested in Seine-Saint-Denis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and La Réuninion since 2018.

It focuses on “improving or stabilising” children’s BMI (indice de masse corporelle, IMC in French), and “changing lifestyle habits”, such as snacking less between meals, drinking fewer sugary drinks at the table, and eating more fruit and vegetables.

The trial was considered to be successful enough to be rolled out nationwide. This is now set to happen over the course of 2023.

The aim is that the ‘treatment plan’ will be “multidimensional” and “adapted to the child’s needs”, the Assurance maladie said, with a diet, exercise, and counselling plan tailored to the child individually.

In its statement, Assurance maladie said that “childhood obesity has become a major public health problem over recent years. The number of children in a situation of being overweight or obese has been rising constantly over the past decade, with long-term consequences for health”.

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