Italy’s Giocampus – an effective publicprivate alliance against childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a worsening social emergency. It affects even the youngest children and has become a major issue in schools throughout the developed world and beyond. In Italy, recent data from the Ministry of Health show that more than 1 million children, a quarter of all young people between 6 and 11 years old, are overweight; 12% of the child population is obese. In southern regions, the situation has reached staggering proportions: half of all children are overweight or obese. In fact, Italy is now third in the world for childhood obesity – behind the USA and Portugal. Consequently, over the next few years there will be a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes among young people in Italy, severely affecting the health and quality of life of future generations. In response, a range of lifestyle interventions has been promoted in many Italian schools in an attempt to teach children the basic principles of healthy nutrition and encourage them to be physically active. While these have enjoyed a degree of success, a new approach has been promoted in the northern city of Parma which takes a novel approach and, it is hoped, may resolve the shortcomings of previous initiatives. The Giocampus programme treats overweight and obesity as a public health problem that requires a global intervention as part of a multisectoral commitment to community welfare.