EU health accolade rewards Amsterdam’s commitment to healthy children

Amsterdam’s efforts to create a healthier city for children and young people have earned it the European Health Award for 2019.

Working on the year’s theme of prevention and reduction of obesity in children and adolescents, the award – given to one city, one school and one NGO – brings with it a 100,000 Euros windfall from the European Union that the city will reinvest in various work schemes.

‘Extra effort to support children and families’

Describing the prize as ‘enormous’, Simone Kukenheim, city councillor for care, youth and sport of Amsterdam, said: “This prize is enormous, not only for the municipality, but especially for all those involved in the field who work daily on a healthy living environment for children. I dedicate this prize to them.

‘With the money we can make extra effort to support children and families and we can advise and encourage entrepreneurs to sell healthier products even better. Together with parents, professionals, schools, associations and entrepreneurs, we try to create a healthy environment in Amsterdam. We call on the European Union to come up with stricter rules regarding product composition, labelling and child marketing.”

The municipality says that childhood obesity is often a symptom of other family problems, such as debt, psychological problems or parenting problems. By first solving these problems, space is created to sustainably improve the lifestyle of a family.

‘Helping all children in Amsterdam grow up healthily’

In addition, it helps when the environment cooperates, through a healthy supply in the canteens at school and the (sports) association, less fast food in the public space – especially in the vicinity of schools – and less child marketing. It adds that the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach is committed to all these fronts with the aim of helping all children in Amsterdam grow up healthily.

The EU Health Award rewards work to help children and young people aged 6-18 years, and while Amsterdam won the city category, the NGO category award went to ‘Society Our Children Zabok’ in Croatia, for its healthy & tasty project. This encourages healthy eating workshops and reducing consumption of unhealthy foods. The school award went to IES Guadalquivir, located in the city of Cordoba, in one of the most deprived areas of Spain, where student health is a major concern. Since 2016 the school’s ‘Be Active @IES’ project has introduced a School Health Action Plan aimed at educating pupils and supporting them to live healthier lives.

Presenting the awards at a ceremony in Brussels, Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, praised Amsterdam’s ‘system approach’, comprising the home and neighbourhood environment, schools and the care settings. The award jury was also impressed by the pressure that Amsterdam exerts on the food industry to take responsibility. This will also help to make the healthy choice ‘the normal choice’ in the future.

‘Good health needs support at all levels’

Andriukaitis added: “At European level we take action to reverse the rising trends in the proportion of the population who are overweight or obese, yet the figures remain worryingly high both for adults and for children and young people.

“For the first time in the history of the EU Health Award, we extended eligibility to schools and cities as well as to NGOs. This is something I feel strongly about – because good health needs to be supported at all levels, and getting children and young people off to a good start in life is something that should concern us all. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank all contestants for their efforts to help our children and young people.”

Click here for more information about the EU Health Awards

Author: Simon Weedy

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