According to data from a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe, collected in 2019 under a study by the European Child Nutrition Surveillance System, in the Algarve region approximately 10.3 percent of children suffer from childhood obesity and 11.5 percent are at a level close to obesity.
Speaking to Lusa, the regional coordinator of the study indicated that the numbers can be explained by the high rate of breastfeeding (92.1 percent), as well as the "better quality" food supply in cafeterias and the existence of food education content in the curriculum of all schools.
"The greater the success in breastfeeding, the greater the success in preventing childhood obesity, which is added to the level of literacy of the parents, for example", stressed Teresa Sancho, who coordinated the WHO European study in the Algarve.
For the nutritionist, since the first study, in 2008, that the Algarve has come up with "good indicators", which she attributed to a regional programme to combat childhood obesity which first began in 2006, with the region being a "pioneer" in combating the problem .
"We did a lot of training with family health and education professionals-preschool and 1st cycle teachers-, so that each one in their work could positively influence the lifestyle of children and families", she highlighted.
At the same time, since 2004 there has been a programme in the region to promote the nutritional quality of school meals in "the entire public school system from pre-school to secondary", which evaluates "all menus in all schools," applying corrective measures.
However, despite the "better quality" food on offer in the Algarve's school cafeterias, compared to other parts of the country, there is still work "to be done" in relation to vending machines, she said.
Despite the good results in terms of obesity, according to the study, the region is also the one with the highest prevalence of underweight children in the country (3.5 percent).
In the Algarve, the study evaluated 523 children in the 16 municipalities of the region, out of a national total of 7,096.