Publications by authors named "Alexandra Cucu"

14 Publications

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Parental Perceptions of Children's Weight Status in 22 Countries: The WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative: COSI 2015/2017.

Obes Facts 2021 Nov 5:1-17. Epub 2021 Nov 5.

Observatory of Nutrition and Study of Obesity, Spanish Agency for Food Safety & Nutrition, Ministry of Health, Madrid, Spain.

Introduction: Parents can act as important agents of change and support for healthy childhood growth and development. Studies have found that parents may not be able to accurately perceive their child's weight status. The purpose of this study was to measure parental perceptions of their child's weight status and to identify predictors of potential parental misperceptions.

Methods: We used data from the World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative and 22 countries. Parents were asked to identify their perceptions of their children's weight status as "underweight," "normal weight," "a little overweight," or "extremely overweight." We categorized children's (6-9 years; n = 124,296) body mass index (BMI) as BMI-for-age Z-scores based on the 2007 WHO-recommended growth references. For each country included in the analysis and pooled estimates (country level), we calculated the distribution of children according to the WHO weight status classification, distribution by parental perception of child's weight status, percentages of accurate, overestimating, or underestimating perceptions, misclassification levels, and predictors of parental misperceptions using a multilevel logistic regression analysis that included only children with overweight (including obesity). Statistical analyses were performed using Stata version 15 1.

Results: Overall, 64.1% of parents categorized their child's weight status accurately relative to the WHO growth charts. However, parents were more likely to underestimate their child's weight if the child had overweight (82.3%) or obesity (93.8%). Parents were more likely to underestimate their child's weight if the child was male (adjusted OR [adjOR]: 1.41; 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 1.28-1.55); the parent had a lower educational level (adjOR: 1.41; 95% CI: 1.26-1.57); the father was asked rather than the mother (adjOR: 1.14; 95% CI: 0.98-1.33); and the family lived in a rural area (adjOR: 1.10; 95% CI: 0.99-1.24). Overall, parents' BMI was not strongly associated with the underestimation of children's weight status, but there was a stronger association in some countries.

Discussion/conclusion: Our study supplements the current literature on factors that influence parental perceptions of their child's weight status. Public health interventions aimed at promoting healthy childhood growth and development should consider parents' knowledge and perceptions, as well as the sociocultural contexts in which children and families live.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000517586DOI Listing
November 2021

Methodology and implementation of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI).

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 4;22 Suppl 6:e13215. Epub 2021 Nov 4.

Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Sciensano, Brussels, Belgium.

Establishment of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) has resulted in a surveillance system which provides regular, reliable, timely, and accurate data on children's weight status-through standardized measurement of bodyweight and height-in the WHO European Region. Additional data on dietary intake, physical activity, sedentary behavior, family background, and school environments are collected in several countries. In total, 45 countries in the European Region have participated in COSI. The first five data collection rounds, between 2007 and 2021, yielded measured anthropometric data on over 1.3 million children. In COSI, data are collected according to a common protocol, using standardized instruments and procedures. The systematic collection and analysis of these data enables intercountry comparisons and reveals differences in the prevalence of childhood thinness, overweight, normal weight, and obesity between and within populations. Furthermore, it facilitates investigation of the relationship between overweight, obesity, and potential risk or protective factors and improves the understanding of the development of overweight and obesity in European primary-school children in order to support appropriate and effective policy responses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13215DOI Listing
November 2021

Thinness, overweight, and obesity in 6- to 9-year-old children from 36 countries: The World Health Organization European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative-COSI 2015-2017.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 7;22 Suppl 6:e13214. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

Center for Health Ecology, Institute of Public Health, Podgorica, Montenegro.

In 2015-2017, the fourth round of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) was conducted in 36 countries. National representative samples of children aged 6-9 (203,323) were measured by trained staff, with similar equipment and using a standardized protocol. This paper assesses the children's body weight status and compares the burden of childhood overweight, obesity, and thinness in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Europe and Central Asia. The results show great geographic variability in height, weight, and body mass index. On average, the children of Northern Europe were the tallest, those of Southern Europe the heaviest, and the children living in Central Asia the lightest and the shortest. Overall, 28.7% of boys and 26.5% of girls were overweight (including obesity) and 2.5% and 1.9%, respectively, were thin according to the WHO definitions. The prevalence of obesity varied from 1.8% of boys and 1.1% of girls in Tajikistan to 21.5% and 19.2%, respectively, in Cyprus, and tended to be higher for boys than for girls. Levels of thinness, stunting, and underweight were relatively low, except in Eastern Europe (for thinness) and in Central Asia. Despite the efforts to halt it, unhealthy weight status is still an important problem in the WHO European Region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13214DOI Listing
November 2021

Socioeconomic disparities in physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep patterns among 6- to 9-year-old children from 24 countries in the WHO European region.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 7;22 Suppl 6:e13209. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-Course, WHO Country Office for Tajikistan, Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep are important predictors of children's health. This paper aimed to investigate socioeconomic disparities in physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep across the WHO European region. This cross-sectional study used data on 124,700 children aged 6 to 9 years from 24 countries participating in the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative between 2015 and 2017. Socioeconomic status (SES) was measured through parental education, parental employment status, and family perceived wealth. Overall, results showed different patterns in socioeconomic disparities in children's movement behaviors across countries. In general, high SES children were more likely to use motorized transportation. Low SES children were less likely to participate in sports clubs and more likely to have more than 2 h/day of screen time. Children with low parental education had a 2.24 [95% CI 1.94-2.58] times higher risk of practising sports for less than 2 h/week. In the pooled analysis, SES was not significantly related to active play. The relationship between SES and sleep varied by the SES indicator used. Importantly, results showed that low SES is not always associated with a higher prevalence of "less healthy" behaviors. There is a great diversity in SES patterns across countries which supports the need for country-specific, targeted public health interventions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13209DOI Listing
November 2021

Urban and rural differences in frequency of fruit, vegetable, and soft drink consumption among 6-9-year-old children from 19 countries from the WHO European region.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 7;22 Suppl 6:e13207. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

Obesity Management Centre, Institute of Endocrinology, Prague, Czech Republic.

In order to address the paucity of evidence on the association between childhood eating habits and urbanization, this cross-sectional study describes urban-rural differences in frequency of fruit, vegetable, and soft drink consumption in 123,100 children aged 6-9 years from 19 countries participating in the fourth round (2015-2017) of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). Children's parents/caregivers completed food-frequency questionnaires. A multivariate multilevel logistic regression analysis was performed and revealed wide variability among countries and within macroregions for all indicators. The percentage of children attending rural schools ranged from 3% in Turkey to 70% in Turkmenistan. The prevalence of less healthy eating habits was high, with between 30-80% and 30-90% children not eating fruit or vegetables daily, respectively, and up to 45% consuming soft drinks on >3 days a week. For less than one third of the countries, children attending rural schools had higher odds (OR-range: 1.1-2.1) for not eating fruit or vegetables daily or consuming soft drinks >3 days a week compared to children attending urban schools. For the remainder of the countries no significant associations were observed. Both population-based interventions and policy strategies are necessary to improve access to healthy foods and increase healthy eating behaviors among children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13207DOI Listing
November 2021

Physical Activity, Screen Time, and Sleep Duration of Children Aged 6-9 Years in 25 Countries: An Analysis within the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) 2015-2017.

Obes Facts 2021 22;14(1):32-44. Epub 2020 Dec 22.

National Institute of Health Dr Ricardo Jorge I.P., Lisbon, Portugal.

Background: Children are becoming less physically active as opportunities for safe active play, recreational activities, and active transport decrease. At the same time, sedentary screen-based activities both during school and leisure time are increasing.

Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate physical activity (PA), screen time, and sleep duration of girls and boys aged 6-9 years in Europe using data from the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI).

Method: The fourth COSI data collection round was conducted in 2015-2017, using a standardized protocol that included a family form completed by parents with specific questions about their children's PA, screen time, and sleep duration.

Results: Nationally representative data from 25 countries was included and information on the PA behaviour, screen time, and sleep duration of 150,651 children was analysed. Pooled analysis showed that: 79.4% were actively playing for >1 h each day, 53.9% were not members of a sport or dancing club, 50.0% walked or cycled to school each day, 60.2% engaged in screen time for <2 h/day, and 84.9% slept for 9-11 h/night. Country-specific analyses of these behaviours showed pronounced differences, with national prevalences in the range of 61.7-98.3% actively playing for >1 h/day, 8.2-85.6% were not members of a sport or dancing club, 17.7-94.0% walked or cycled to school each day, 32.3-80.0% engaged in screen time for <2 h/day, and 50.0-95.8% slept for 9-11 h/night.

Conclusions: The prevalence of engagement in PA and the achievement of healthy screen time and sleep duration are heterogenous across the region. Policymakers and other stakeholders, including school administrators and parents, should increase opportunities for young people to participate in daily PA as well as explore solutions to address excessive screen time and short sleep duration to improve the overall physical and mental health and well-being of children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000511263DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7983588PMC
July 2021

A Snapshot of European Children's Eating Habits: Results from the Fourth Round of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI).

Nutrients 2020 Aug 17;12(8). Epub 2020 Aug 17.

Department for Organization of Health Services to Children, Mothers, Adolescents and Family Planning, Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population, 734025 Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Consuming a healthy diet in childhood helps to protect against malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This cross-sectional study described the diets of 132,489 children aged six to nine years from 23 countries participating in round four (2015-2017) of the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). Children's parents or caregivers were asked to complete a questionnaire that contained indicators of energy-balance-related behaviors (including diet). For each country, we calculated the percentage of children who consumed breakfast, fruit, vegetables, sweet snacks or soft drinks "every day", "most days (four to six days per week)", "some days (one to three days per week)", or "never or less than once a week". We reported these results stratified by country, sex, and region. On a daily basis, most children (78.5%) consumed breakfast, fewer than half (42.5%) consumed fruit, fewer than a quarter (22.6%) consumed fresh vegetables, and around one in ten consumed sweet snacks or soft drinks (10.3% and 9.4%, respectively); however, there were large between-country differences. This paper highlights an urgent need to create healthier food and drink environments, reinforce health systems to promote healthy diets, and continue to support child nutrition and obesity surveillance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12082481DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468747PMC
August 2020

Prevalence of Severe Obesity among Primary School Children in 21 European Countries.

Obes Facts 2019 26;12(2):244-258. Epub 2019 Apr 26.

Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) was established more than 10 years ago to estimate prevalence and monitor changes in overweight and obesity in children aged 6-9 years. Since then, there have been five rounds of data collection in more than 40 countries involving more than half a million children. To date, no comparative studies with data on severe childhood obesity from European countries have been published.

Objectives: The aim of this work was to present the prevalence of severe obesity in school-aged children from 21 countries participating in COSI.

Method: The data are from cross-sectional studies in 21 European WHO member states that took part in the first three COSI rounds of data collection (2007/2008, 2009/2010, 2012/2013). School-aged children were measured using standardized instruments and methodology. Children were classified as severely obese using the definitions provided by WHO and the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Analyses overtime, by child's age and mother's educational level, were performed in a select group of countries.

Results: A total of 636,933 children were included in the analysis (323,648 boys and 313,285 girls). The prevalence of severe obesity varied greatly among countries, with higher values in Southern Europe. According to the WHO definition, severe obesity ranged from 1.0% in Swedish and Moldovan children (95% CI 0.7-1.3 and 0.7-1.5, respectively) to 5.5% (95% CI 4.9-6.1) in Maltese children. The prevalence was generally higher among boys compared to girls. The IOTF cut-offs lead to lower estimates, but confirm the differences among countries, and were more similar for both boys and girls. In many countries 1 in 4 obese children were severely obese. Applying the estimates of prevalence based on the WHO definition to the whole population of children aged 6-9 years in each country, around 398,000 children would be expected to be severely obese in the 21 European countries. The trend between 2007 and 2013 and the analysis by child's age did not show a clear pattern. Severe obesity was more common among children whose mother's educational level was lower.

Conclusions: Severe obesity is a serious public health issue which affects a large number of children in Europe. Because of the impact on educational, health, social care, and economic systems, obesity needs to be addressed via a range of approaches from early prevention of overweight and obesity to treatment of those who need it.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000500436DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6547273PMC
February 2020

Variation across Romania in the health impact of increasing tobacco taxation.

Eur J Public Health 2018 10;28(suppl_2):10-13

Institutul National de Sanatate Publica, Bucuresti, Romania.

Background: Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death globally and tobacco taxation is a cost-effective method of reducing tobacco use in countries and increasing revenue. However, without adequate enforcement some argue the risk of increasing illicit trade in cheap tobacco makes taxation ineffective. We explore this by testing sub-national variations in the impact of tobacco tax increases from 2009 to 2011, on seven smoking-related diseases in adults in Romania, to see if regions that are prone to cigarette smuggling due to bordering other countries see less benefit.

Method: We use a pragmatic natural experiment study approach to analyse the study period 2009-15. Findings from hospital episodes data relating to smoking-attributable diseases are analysed for six regional subgroups which are compared according to border characteristics with other countries.

Results: At a national level smoking-attributable diseases reduced over the study period especially around the tax increase years, with asthma showing the most significant decline. Sub-nationally there was no statistically significant correlation in variations between central regions and those bordering other countries.

Conclusion: There is a reassuring decline in hospitalizations for smoking-related diseases associated with the tax increases, and no sub-national association with smuggling risk measured by variation in the size of this effect and regions that border other countries. More comprehensive and progressive tobacco control in Romania should be implemented in line with the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/cky180DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6204550PMC
October 2018

RENEB intercomparisons applying the conventional Dicentric Chromosome Assay (DCA).

Int J Radiat Biol 2017 01 21;93(1):20-29. Epub 2016 Oct 21.

y Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority , Helsinki , Finland.

Purpose: Two quality controlled inter-laboratory exercises were organized within the EU project 'Realizing the European Network of Biodosimetry (RENEB)' to further optimize the dicentric chromosome assay (DCA) and to identify needs for training and harmonization activities within the RENEB network.

Materials And Methods: The general study design included blood shipment, sample processing, analysis of chromosome aberrations and radiation dose assessment. After manual scoring of dicentric chromosomes in different cell numbers dose estimations and corresponding 95% confidence intervals were submitted by the participants.

Results: The shipment of blood samples to the partners in the European Community (EU) were performed successfully. Outside the EU unacceptable delays occurred. The results of the dose estimation demonstrate a very successful classification of the blood samples in medically relevant groups. In comparison to the 1st exercise the 2nd intercomparison showed an improvement in the accuracy of dose estimations especially for the high dose point.

Conclusions: In case of a large-scale radiological incident, the pooling of ressources by networks can enhance the rapid classification of individuals in medically relevant treatment groups based on the DCA. The performance of the RENEB network as a whole has clearly benefited from harmonization processes and specific training activities for the network partners.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2016.1233370DOI Listing
January 2017

RENEB - Running the European Network of biological dosimetry and physical retrospective dosimetry.

Int J Radiat Biol 2017 01 6;93(1):2-14. Epub 2016 Oct 6.

a Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz , Department Radiation Protection and Health , Oberschleissheim , Germany.

Purpose: A European network was initiated in 2012 by 23 partners from 16 European countries with the aim to significantly increase individualized dose reconstruction in case of large-scale radiological emergency scenarios.

Results: The network was built on three complementary pillars: (1) an operational basis with seven biological and physical dosimetric assays in ready-to-use mode, (2) a basis for education, training and quality assurance, and (3) a basis for further network development regarding new techniques and members. Techniques for individual dose estimation based on biological samples and/or inert personalized devices as mobile phones or smart phones were optimized to support rapid categorization of many potential victims according to the received dose to the blood or personal devices. Communication and cross-border collaboration were also standardized. To assure long-term sustainability of the network, cooperation with national and international emergency preparedness organizations was initiated and links to radiation protection and research platforms have been developed. A legal framework, based on a Memorandum of Understanding, was established and signed by 27 organizations by the end of 2015.

Conclusions: RENEB is a European Network of biological and physical-retrospective dosimetry, with the capacity and capability to perform large-scale rapid individualized dose estimation. Specialized to handle large numbers of samples, RENEB is able to contribute to radiological emergency preparedness and wider large-scale research projects.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2016.1230239DOI Listing
January 2017

Capabilities of the RENEB network for research and large scale radiological and nuclear emergency situations.

Int J Radiat Biol 2017 01 4;93(1):136-141. Epub 2016 Oct 4.

o Hospital Universitario y Politécnico La Fe , Valencia , Spain.

Purpose: To identify and assess, among the participants in the RENEB (Realizing the European Network of Biodosimetry) project, the emergency preparedness, response capabilities and resources that can be deployed in the event of a radiological or nuclear accident/incident affecting a large number of individuals. These capabilities include available biodosimetry techniques, infrastructure, human resources (existing trained staff), financial and organizational resources (including the role of national contact points and their articulation with other stakeholders in emergency response) as well as robust quality control/assurance systems.

Materials And Methods: A survey was prepared and sent to the RENEB partners in order to acquire information about the existing, operational techniques and infrastructure in the laboratories of the different RENEB countries and to assess the capacity of response in the event of radiological or nuclear accident involving mass casualties. The survey focused on several main areas: laboratory's general information, country and staff involved in biological and physical dosimetry; retrospective assays used, the number of assays available per laboratory and other information related to biodosimetry and emergency preparedness. Following technical intercomparisons amongst RENEB members, an update of the survey was performed one year later concerning the staff and the available assays.

Conclusions: The analysis of RENEB questionnaires allowed a detailed assessment of existing capacity of the RENEB network to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies. This highlighted the key importance of international cooperation in order to guarantee an effective and timely response in the event of radiological or nuclear accidents involving a considerable number of casualties. The deployment of the scientific and technical capabilities existing within the RENEB network members seems mandatory, to help other countries with less or no capacity for biological or physical dosimetry, or countries overwhelmed in case of a radiological or nuclear accident involving a large number of individuals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2016.1227107DOI Listing
January 2017

Web based scoring is useful for validation and harmonisation of scoring criteria within RENEB.

Int J Radiat Biol 2017 01 22;93(1):110-117. Epub 2016 Aug 22.

s Stockholm University, Department of Molecular Biosciences, Stockholm , Sweden and Jan Kochanowski University , Kielce , Poland.

Purpose: To establish a training data set of digital images and to investigate the scoring criteria and dose assessment of the dicentric assay within the European network of biodosimetry (RENEB), a web based scoring inter-comparison was undertaken by 17 RENEB partners.

Materials And Methods: Two sets of 50 high resolution images were uploaded onto the RENEB website. One set included metaphases after a moderate exposure (1.3 Gy) and the other set consisted of metaphases after a high dose exposure (3.5 Gy). The laboratories used their own calibration curves for estimating doses based on observed aberration frequencies.

Results: The dose estimations and 95% confidence limits were compared to the actual doses and the corresponding z-values were satisfactory for the majority; only the dose estimations from two laboratories were too low or too high. The coefficients of variation were 17.6% for the moderate and 11.2% for the high dose. Metaphases with controversial results could be identified for training purposes.

Conclusions: Overall, the web based scoring of the two galleries by the 17 laboratories produced very good results. Application of web based scoring for the dicentric assay may therefore be a relevant strategy for an operational biodosimetry assistance network.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2016.1206228DOI Listing
January 2017

Workgroup report: developing environmental health indicators for European children: World Health Organization Working Group.

Environ Health Perspect 2007 Sep;115(9):1376-82

Robens Centre for Public and Environmental Health, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom.

A working group coordinated by the World Health Organization developed a set of indicators to protect children's health from environmental risks and to support current and future European policy needs. On the basis of identified policy needs, the group developed a core set of 29 indicators for implementation plus an extended set of eight additional indicators for future development, focusing on exposure, health effects, and action. As far as possible, the indicators were designed to use existing information and are flexible enough to be developed further to meet the needs of policy makers and changing health priorities. These indicators cover most of the priority topic areas specified in the Children's Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE) as adopted in the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in 2004, and will be used to monitor the implementation of CEHAPE. This effort can be viewed as an integral part of the Global Initiative on Children's Environmental Health Indicators, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.9958DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964892PMC
September 2007
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