Some 35 percent of 8-year-olds in Croatia are overweight or obese, placing Croatia among the top five European countries dealing with the problem, showed the research conducted by the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) in 2015/2106, and presented to the Health Ministry on Thursday.
Some 31 percent of girls, and 38.7 percent of boys are overweight or obese, the research showed. However, only one in six parents (less than 15 percent) thought that their children had weight problems.
The research included 5,664 second- and third-graders in 164 schools throughout the country, and their parents.
Lack of physical activity and poor diet are the main causes of excessive weight gain in children.
The results showed that some 56 percent children spend two or more hours a day watching TV or using electronic devices, while on the weekends that figure goes up to a staggering 87.4 percent. Every other child spends less than three hours daily in an organised physical activity, 9.7 percent spends less than an hour daily playing outside, and only 1.5 children played outside on the weekends.
In terms of food and drinks, over a half (66.5 percent) of the children surveyed do not eat fresh fruit daily. When it comes to vegetables, the figure rises to 82.8 percent. Almost a quarter do not eat a daily breakfast.
The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) survey was organised in 2006 by the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe, along with 13 member states, and Croatia first joined the survey in 2015/16.
Although there are a number of programmes in Croatia implemented locally, it will take time to see any results in schools, HZJZ said.
A good example for battling childhood obesity is Portugal, which has implemented a series of measures since 2007, including the changes in food taxation policies and investments into prevention and school education, which have resulted in smaller number of overweight children, HZJZ added.