Publications by authors named "Julianne Williams"

39 Publications

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

Childhood overweight and obesity abatement policies in Europe.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 4;22 Suppl 6:e13300. Epub 2021 Nov 4.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Over the past two decades, a concerted effort to combat the rising tide of childhood overweight and obesity has taken shape. The World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) provides recommendations for six priority areas of action, including the promotion of healthy food consumption, promotion of physical activity, preconception and pregnancy care, early childhood diet and physical activity, healthy nutrition and physical activity for school-aged children, and community-based weight management. This paper provides a snapshot of policies and measures aligned to these areas of action within the WHO European Region in order to encourage other countries to make similar efforts. Examples are drawn from Portugal (sugar-sweetened beverage tax, integrated nutrition strategy), the United Kingdom (soft drink levy, active commuting programs, urban design principles), Lithuania (prohibition of energy drinks), Norway (industry and government partnerships to promote healthier foods, nutrition education curriculum for schools), Hungary (tax subsidies to promote healthy diets), the European Union (cross-border marketing regulations, preconception and pregnancy care), Slovenia (food marketing restrictions), Spain (marketing restrictions within educational settings), Poland (investing in sports infrastructure), Russia (increasing sports participation), Estonia (redevelopment of the physical education curriculum), Netherlands (preconception and pregnancy care), Croatia (conditions to support breastfeeding), Austria (perinatal and early childhood nutrition), Czechia (life-course strategy), San Marino (nutrition and physical activity for school-aged children), Ukraine (potable water for schools), Ireland and Italy (community-based weight management approaches). Our findings suggest that a large disparity exists among the type and breadth of policies adopted by Member States, with a mix of single-issue policy responses and more cohesive strategies. The role of data, implementation research, and ongoing surveillance of country-level progress related to childhood overweight and obesity policies are discussed as an essential part of the iterative process of policy development. Additional work to systematically gather context-specific information on policy development, implementation, and reach according to ECHO's six areas of action by WHO European Region countries will inform future policy paradigms within the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13300DOI 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

Cervical cancer testing among women aged 30-49 years in the WHO European Region.

Eur J Public Health 2021 10;31(4):884-889

The World Health Organization European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Background: Screening programs play an important role in a comprehensive strategy to prevent cervical cancer, a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information about rates of cervical cancer testing, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia where levels of cervical cancer are among the highest in the WHO European Region. The purpose of this article is to report on the lifetime prevalence of cervical cancer testing among females aged 30-49 years from across the WHO European region, and to describe high-level geographic and socioeconomic differences.

Methods: We used data from the European Health Information Survey and the WHO STEPwise approach to Surveillance survey to calculate the proportions of women who were tested for cervical cancer.

Results: The percentage of tested women ranged from 11.7% in Azerbaijan to 98.4% in Finland, with the lowest percentages observed in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Testing was lower in Eastern Europe (compared to Western Europe), among low-income countries and among women with lower levels of education.

Conclusion: Effective cervical cancer screening programs are one part of a larger strategy, which must also include national scale-up of human papilloma virus vaccination, screening and treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckab100DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8514175PMC
October 2021

Waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio in 7-year-old children-WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 17;22 Suppl 6:e13208. Epub 2021 Aug 17.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Childhood obesity is a serious global health problem. Waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) reflect body fat distribution in children. The objectives of this study were to assess WC and WHtR in 7-year-old children and to determine body mass index (BMI), WC, and WHtR differences in children from 10 selected countries across Europe (Bulgaria, Czechia, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Norway, Spain, and Sweden) participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). The 50th and 90th percentile of WC (according to COSI and "Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS" (IDEFICS) cutoff values) and WHtR above 0.5 were used as measures of abdominal obesity in a unique sample of 38,975 children aged 7.00-7.99 years. Southern European countries, including Greece and Spain, showed significantly higher BMI, WC, and WHtRin both genders (p < 0.0001) than Eastern and Northern Europe. The highest values for WC were observed in Greece (60.8 ± 7.36 cm boys; 60.3 ± 7.48 cm girls), North Macedonia (60.4 ± 7.91 cm boys; 59.0 ± 8.01 cm girls), and Spain (59.7 ± 6.96 cm boys; 58.9 ± 6.77 cm girls). WC and WHtRin may add an information about the occurrence of central obesity in children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13208DOI Listing
November 2021

Mobilizing governments and society to combat obesity: Reflections on how data from the WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative are helping to drive policy progress.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 10;22 Suppl 6:e13217. Epub 2021 Aug 10.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

To meet the need for regular and reliable data on the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) was established in 2007. The resulting robust surveillance system has improved understanding of the public health challenge of childhood overweight and obesity in the WHO European Region. For the past decade, data from COSI have helped to inform and drive policy action on nutrition and physical activity in the region. This paper describes illustrative examples of how COSI data have fed into national and international policy, but the real scope of COSI's impact is likely to be much broader. In some countries, there are signs that policy responses to COSI data have helped halt the rise in childhood obesity. As the countries of the WHO European Region commit to pursuing United Action for Better Health in Europe in WHO's new European Programme of Work, COSI provides an excellent example of such united action in practice. Further collaborative action will be key to tackling this major public health challenge which affects children throughout the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13217DOI Listing
November 2021

Childhood overweight and obesity in Europe: Changes from 2007 to 2017.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 10;22 Suppl 6:e13226. Epub 2021 Aug 10.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

The Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI) routinely measures height and weight of primary school children aged 6-9 years and calculates overweight and obesity prevalence within the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region using a standard methodology. This study examines the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity from the first round of COSI carried out in 2007/2008 to the latest of 2015/2017 in 11 European countries in which data were collected for at least three rounds. In total 303,155 children were measured. In general, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among boys and girls decreased in countries with high prevalence (Southern Europe) and remained stable or slightly increased in Northern European and Eastern European countries included in the analysis. Among boys, the highest decrease in overweight (including obesity) was observed in Portugal (from 40.5% in 2007/2008 to 28.4 in 2015/2017) and in Greece for obesity (from 30.5% in 2009/2010 to 21.7% in 2015/2017). Lithuania recorded the strongest increase in the proportion of boys with overweight (from 24.8% to 28.5%) and obesity (from 9.4% to 12.2%). The trends were similar for boys and girls in most countries. Several countries in Europe have successfully implemented policies and interventions to counteract the increase of overweight and obesity, but there is still much to be done.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13226DOI Listing
November 2021

Improving the lagging rates of breastfeeding.

Lancet Child Adolesc Health 2021 09 8;5(9):606-607. Epub 2021 Jul 8.

WHO Regional Office for Europe, Child and Adolescent Health and Development, Division of Country Health Policies and Systems, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00189-9DOI Listing
September 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

Socioeconomic differences in food habits among 6- to 9-year-old children from 23 countries-WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI 2015/2017).

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 7;22 Suppl 6:e13211. Epub 2021 Jul 7.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Background: Socioeconomic differences in children's food habits are a key public health concern. In order to inform policy makers, cross-country surveillance studies of dietary patterns across socioeconomic groups are required. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and children's food habits.

Methods: The study was based on nationally representative data from children aged 6-9 years (n = 129,164) in 23 countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region. Multivariate multilevel analyses were used to explore associations between children's food habits (consumption of fruit, vegetables, and sugar-containing soft drinks) and parental education, perceived family wealth and parental employment status.

Results: Overall, the present study suggests that unhealthy food habits are associated with lower SES, particularly as assessed by parental education and family perceived wealth, but not parental employment status. We found cross-national and regional variation in associations between SES and food habits and differences in the extent to which the respective indicators of SES were related to children's diet.

Conclusion: Socioeconomic differences in children's food habits exist in the majority of European and Asian countries examined in this study. The results are of relevance when addressing strategies, policy actions, and interventions targeting social inequalities in children's diets.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13211DOI Listing
November 2021

Socioeconomic inequalities in overweight and obesity among 6- to 9-year-old children in 24 countries from the World Health Organization European region.

Obes Rev 2021 Nov 28;22 Suppl 6:e13213. Epub 2021 Jun 28.

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

Childhood overweight and obesity have significant short- and long-term negative impacts on children's health and well-being. These challenges are unequally distributed according to socioeconomic status (SES); however, previous studies have often lacked standardized and objectively measured data across national contexts to assess these differences. This study provides a cross-sectional picture of the association between SES and childhood overweight and obesity, based on data from 123,487 children aged 6-9 years in 24 countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) European region. Overall, associations were found between overweight/obesity and the three SES indicators used (parental education, parental employment status, and family-perceived wealth). Our results showed an inverse relationship between the prevalence of childhood overweight/obesity and parental education in high-income countries, whereas the opposite relationship was observed in most of the middle-income countries. The same applied to family-perceived wealth, although parental employment status appeared to be less associated with overweight and obesity or not associated at all. This paper highlights the need for close attention to context when designing interventions, as the association between SES and childhood overweight and obesity varies by country economic development. Population-based interventions have an important role to play, but policies that target specific SES groups are also needed to address inequalities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13213DOI Listing
November 2021

Effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and the policy response on childhood obesity risk factors: Gender and sex differences and recommendations for research.

Obes Rev 2021 11 28;22 Suppl 6:e13222. Epub 2021 Jun 28.

World Health Organization (WHO) European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Country Health Programmes, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Childhood obesity is a public health concern globally, with generally higher prevalence rates in boys compared to girls. Although biological sex is an important determinant, gender roles and norms influence the exposure and vulnerability to risk factors for noncommunicable diseases. Norms and roles might be reinforced or change due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) related measures as well as the exposure to risk factors for childhood obesity. COVID-19 related changes, such as home confinement, influence a child's risk of obesity. Using Dahlgren and Whitehead's model of the main determinants of health, this paper aims to provide a roadmap for future research on sex, gender, and childhood obesity during the time of COVID-19. It examines how COVID-19 has led to important changes in children's general socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental conditions, social and community networks, and individual lifestyle factors and how these may affect a child's risk for obesity. It focuses on the influence of gender and sex and outlines key considerations and indicators to examine in future studies concerned with promoting health and gender equity and equality. We need to understand the differential impact of COVID-19 related measures on girls' and boys' risk for obesity to adequately react with preventive measures, policies, and programs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obr.13222DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8420308PMC
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

Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence.

Clin Nutr 2021 05 7;40(5):3503-3521. Epub 2020 Dec 7.

Laboratory of Hygiene, Social & Preventive Medicine and Medical Statistics, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Electronic address:

Background: Vegan diets, where animal- and all their by-products are excluded from the diet, have gained popularity, especially in the last decade. However, the evaluation of this type of diet has not been well addressed in the scientific literature. This study aimed to investigate the adequacy of vegan diets in European populations and of their macro- and micronutrient intakes compared to World Health Organization recommendations.

Methods: A systematic search in PubMed, Web of Science, IBSS, Cochrane library and Google Scholar was conducted and 48 studies (12 cohorts and 36 cross-sectional) were included.

Results: Regarding macronutrients, vegan diets are lower in protein intake compared with all other diet types. Veganism is also associated with low intake of vitamins B, Niacin (B), B, D, iodine, zinc, calcium, potassium, selenium. Vitamin B intake among vegans is significantly lower (0.24-0.49 μg, recommendations are 2.4 μg) and calcium intake in the majority of vegans was below recommendations (750 mg/d). No significant differences in fat intake were observed. Vegan diets are not related to deficiencies in vitamins A, B, Β, C, E, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and folate and have a low glycemic load.

Conclusions: Following a vegan diet may result in deficiencies in micronutrients (vitamin B, zinc, calcium and selenium) which should not be disregarded. However, low micro- and macronutrient intakes are not always associated with health impairments. Individuals who consume a vegan diet should be aware of the risk of potential dietary deficiencies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2020.11.035DOI Listing
May 2021

Disrupted food systems in the WHO European region - a threat or opportunity for healthy and sustainable food and nutrition?

Food Secur 2020 Jul 23:1-6. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

World Health Organization European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Dietary health and sustainability are inextricably linked. Food systems that are not sustainable often fail to provide the amount or types of food needed to ensure population health. The ongoing pandemic threatens to exacerbate malnutrition, and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This paper discusses threats and opportunities for food environments and health status across the WHO European Region in the current context . These opportunities and threats are focused around four key areas: NCDs and health systems; dietary behaviour; food insecurity and vulnerable groups; and food supply mechanisms. Food systems were already under great stress. Now with the pandemic, the challenges to food systems in the WHO European Region have been exacerbated, demanding from all levels of government swift adaptations to manage healthiness, availability, accessibility and affordability of food. Cities and governments in the Region should capitalize on this unique opportunity to 'build back better' and make bold and lasting changes to the food system and consequently to the health and wellbeing of people and sustainability of the planet.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12571-020-01079-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7375838PMC
July 2020

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

A comparison of self-reported to cotinine-detected smoking status among adults in Georgia.

Eur J Public Health 2020 10;30(5):1007-1012

WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Through the Lifecourse, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Background: Self-reported measures of tobacco use may have limited validity, particularly among some populations. This study aims to validate self-reported smoking measures among Georgian adults participating in the 2016 STEPS survey using cotinine biomarker measurements, and to explore potential differences according to sociodemographic characteristics. Additionally, this paper examines how the estimated prevalence of smoking in the population varies according to measurement type.

Methods: Using the WHO standardized STEPS methodology, adults self-reported their smoking status. In a later stage of the survey, a subset of participants provided a urine sample, which was tested for cotinine. Using each participant's objective cotinine measurement and their self-reported smoking status, we calculated the sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value of self-reported smoking. Next, we calculated the estimated prevalence of smokers according to the type of measurement.

Results: Results indicated high sensitivity (83.37%, 95% CI: 76.79-88.37%) among males and relatively low sensitivity (38.60% CI: 29.23-48.90%) among females. According to self-report, the prevalence of smokers was 26.44% (23.61-29.48%), while according to cotinine detection, the prevalence of smokers was 32.27% (29.16-35.55%). Among all subgroups, the self-reported prevalence of smoking was significantly lower than the cotinine-detected prevalence.

Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the validity of the STEPS self-reported tobacco indicator has been tested. Self-reported measures of smoking status may lead to an under-estimation of smoking prevalence among Georgian adults, especially women. These findings suggest that integration of biochemical measures of smoking into tobacco use studies may be an important investment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckaa093DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7536257PMC
October 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

Association between Characteristics at Birth, Breastfeeding and Obesity in 22 Countries: The WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative - COSI 2015/2017.

Obes Facts 2019 26;12(2):226-243. Epub 2019 Apr 26.

NCD Office, WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, Moscow, Russian Federation.

Background: In Europe, although the prevalence of childhood obesity seems to be plateauing in some countries, progress on tackling this important public health issue remains slow and inconsistent. Breastfeeding has been described as a protective factor, and the more exclusively and the longer children are breastfed, the greater their protection from obesity. Birth weight has been shown to have a positive association with later risk for obesity.

Objectives: It was the aim of this paper to investigate the association of early-life factors, namely breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding and birth weight, with obesity among children.

Method: Data from 22 participating countries in the WHO European COSI study (round 4: 2015/2017) were collected using cross-sectional, nationally representative samples of 6- to 9-year-olds (n = 100,583). The children's standardized weight and height measurements followed a common WHO protocol. Information on the children's birth weight and breastfeeding practice and duration was collected through a family record form. A multivariate multilevel logistic regression analysis regarding breastfeeding practice (both general and exclusive) and characteristics at birth was performed.

Results: The highest prevalence rates of obesity were observed in Spain (17.7%), Malta (17.2%) and Italy (16.8%). A wide between-country disparity in breastfeeding prevalence was found. Tajikistan had the highest percentage of children that were breastfed for ≥6 months (94.4%) and exclusively breastfed for ≥6 months (73.3%). In France, Ireland and Malta, only around 1 in 4 children was breastfed for ≥6 months. Italy and Malta showed the highest prevalence of obesity among children who have never been breastfed (21.2%), followed by Spain (21.0%). The pooled analysis showed that, compared to children who were breastfed for at least 6 months, the odds of being obese were higher among children never breastfed or breastfed for a shorter period, both in case of general (adjusted odds ratio [adjOR] [95% CI] 1.22 [1.16-1.28] and 1.12 [1.07-1.16], respectively) and exclusive breastfeeding (adjOR [95% CI] 1.25 [1.17-1.36] and 1.05 [0.99-1.12], respectively). Higher birth weight was associated with a higher risk of being overweight, which was reported in 11 out of the 22 countries. Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Italy, Poland and Romania showed that children who were preterm at birth had higher odds of being obese, compared to children who were full-term babies.

Conclusion: The present work confirms the beneficial effect of breastfeeding against obesity, which was highly increased if children had never been breastfed or had been breastfed for a shorter period. Nevertheless, adoption of exclusive breastfeeding is below global recommendations and far from the target endorsed by the WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly Global Targets for Nutrition of increasing the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50% by 2025.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000500425DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6547266PMC
February 2020

Diet quality of adolescents in rural Sri Lanka based on the Diet Quality Index-International: findings from the 'Integrating Nutrition Promotion and Rural Development' project.

Public Health Nutr 2019 07 1;22(10):1735-1744. Epub 2019 Apr 1.

1Centre on Population Based Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention,Nuffield Department of Population Health,University of Oxford,Old Road Campus,Oxford OX3 7NX,UK.

Objective: The current paper describes methods of evaluating dietary habits of Sri Lankan adolescents based on the Diet Quality Index-International (DQI-I), which has been used in multiple international studies to describe dietary variety, moderation, adequacy and balance. The paper describes the method for calculating DQI-I scores and examines associations between DQI-I scores and dietary intake, and between DQI-I scores and sociodemographic factors.

Design: The study followed a three-stage cluster randomised sampling method. Dietary intake was collected using a validated FFQ. Estimated micronutrient intakes and number of servings consumed were described according to DQI-I quartiles. DQI-I scores were tabulated according to sociodemographic characteristics. Multilevel modelling was used to examine associations between sociodemographic characteristics and DQI-I scores.

Setting: Secondary schools in rural Sri Lanka.ParticipantsAdolescents (n 1300) aged 12-18 years attending secondary school in rural Sri Lanka.

Results: DQI-I scores increased with consumption of fat (% energy), cholesterol (mg/d), energy (kJ/d), protein (% energy), Na (mg), dietary fibre (g), Fe (mg) and Ca (mg), but decreased according to percentage of energy coming from carbohydrates. DQI-I scores were significantly lower among females and students with lower levels of maternal education.

Conclusions: Policies are needed to increase the availability and affordability of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and high-protein foods, particularly to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Significant differences in diet quality according to sex, socio-economic status and district suggest there is potential for targeted interventions that aim to increase access to affordable, nutrient-rich foods among these groups.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980019000430DOI Listing
July 2019

A systematic review of associations between non-communicable diseases and socioeconomic status within low- and lower-middle-income countries.

J Glob Health 2018 Dec;8(2):020409

Centre for Population-based Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Background: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death globally. Eighty-two percent of premature NCD deaths occur within low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs). Research to date, largely drawn from high-income countries, suggests that disadvantaged and marginalized groups have a higher NCD burden, but there has been a dearth of research studying this relationship within LLMICs. The purpose of this systematic review is to map the literature on evidence from LLMICs on the socio-economic status (SES) gradient of four particular NCDs: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature search for primary research published between 1 January 1990 and 27 April 2015 using six bibliographic databases and web resources. We included studies that reported SES and morbidity or mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases within LLMICs.

Results: Fifty-seven studies from 17 LLMICs met our inclusion criteria. Fourteen of the 18 papers that reported significant associations between cancer and SES suggested that low SES groups had the highest cancer risk. Eleven of 15 papers reporting significant relationships between CVD and SES suggested that low SES groups have higher risk. In contrast, seven of 12 papers reporting significant findings related to diabetes found that higher SES groups had higher diabetes risk. We identified just three studies on the relationship between chronic respiratory diseases and SES; none of them reported significant findings.

Conclusions: Only 17 of the 84 LLMICs were represented, highlighting the need for more research on NCDs within these countries. The majority of studies were medium to high quality cross-sectional studies. When we restricted our analyses to high quality studies only, for both cancer and cardiovascular disease more than half of studies found a significantly higher risk for those of lower SES. The opposite was true for diabetes, whilst there was a paucity of high quality research on chronic respiratory disease. Development programmes must consider health alongside other aims and NCD prevention interventions must target all members of the population.

Systematic Review Registration Number: Prospero: CRD42015020169.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7189/jogh.08.020409DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6076564PMC
December 2018

Socioeconomic status and alcohol use in low- and lower-middle income countries: A systematic review.

Alcohol 2018 08 27;70:23-31. Epub 2017 Dec 27.

WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office), Moscow, Russian Federation. Electronic address:

Background: Harmful use of alcohol is a major cause of global morbidity and mortality. The role of alcohol as a driver of the unfolding non-communicable disease crisis has led to high-profile calls for better epidemiological data. Despite causing a disproportionate amount of harm in low-income groups, there is a critical dearth of evidence on the intra-national socioeconomic patterning of alcohol use in low- and lower-middle income countries (LLMICs). This review aims to fill the gap, providing evidence on the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and alcohol use in these low-income settings.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature search for primary research published between January 1, 1990 and June 30, 2015 using 13 electronic databases, including Embase and Medline. We also hand-searched references and reviewed 'gray literature' - studies that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals. We included studies from LLMICs presenting data on multiple measures of socioeconomic status and alcohol use. No age or language restrictions were applied. Due to high heterogeneity, we used a narrative approach for data synthesis.

Findings: After reviewing 4242 records and 247 full-text articles, 23 studies met our inclusion criteria, reporting data on 861,295 individuals aged >10 years from 10 countries. Alcohol use was found to be more prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups in the majority of Southeast Asian studies. The association was mixed for African studies, although these tended to have smaller sample sizes and weaker methods. Studies that measured multiple domains of SES found good agreement between different indicators. Definitions of alcohol use and abuse varied widely between studies, as did socioeconomic groupings.

Conclusions: The lack of consistency between studies and the abject lack of data from the majority of LLMICs present a major barrier to policymakers tasked with reducing alcohol-related harm in these settings. Adherence to standardized definitions, the publication of WHO survey data on alcohol and SES, and enhanced surveillance is needed to build an accurate picture of the socioeconomic patterning of alcohol use in developing countries.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.alcohol.2017.12.002DOI Listing
August 2018

Evaluation of research on interventions aligned to WHO 'Best Buys' for NCDs in low-income and lower-middle-income countries: a systematic review from 1990 to 2015.

BMJ Glob Health 2018 19;3(1):e000535. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

Centre on Population Approaches for NCD Prevention, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Background: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with low-income and middle-income countries experiencing a disproportionately high burden. Since 2010 WHO has promoted 24 highly cost-effective interventions for NCDs, dubbed 'best buys'. It is unclear whether these interventions have been evaluated in low-income and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs).

Aim: To systematically review research on interventions aligned to WHO 'best buys' for NCDs in LLMICs.

Methods: We searched 13 major databases and included papers conducted in the 83 World Bank-defined LLMICs, published between 1 January 1990 and 5 February 2015. Two reviewers independently screened papers and assessed risk of bias. We adopted a narrative approach to data synthesis. The primary outcomes were NCD-related mortality and morbidity, and risk factor prevalence.

Results: We identified 2672 records, of which 36 were included (608 940 participants). No studies on 'best buys' were found in 89% of LLMICs. Nineteen of the 36 studies reported on the effectiveness of tobacco-related 'best buys', presenting good evidence for group interventions in reducing tobacco use but weaker evidence for interventions targeting individuals. There were fewer studies on smoking bans, warning labels and mass media campaigns, and no studies on taxes or marketing restrictions. There was supportive evidence that cervical screening and hepatitis B immunisation prevent cancer in LLMICs. A single randomised controlled trial supported polypharmacy for cardiovascular disease. Fourteen of the 'best buy' interventions did not have any good evidence for effectiveness in LLMICs.

Conclusions: We found studies on only 11 of the 24 interventions aligned with the WHO 'best buys' from LLMIC settings. Most LLMICs have not conducted research on these interventions in their populations. LLMICs should take action to implement and evaluate 'best buys' in their national context, based on national priorities, and starting with interventions with the strongest evidence base.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000535DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5841523PMC
February 2018

The impact of poverty reduction and development interventions on non-communicable diseases and their behavioural risk factors in low and lower-middle income countries: A systematic review.

PLoS One 2018 23;13(2):e0193378. Epub 2018 Feb 23.

British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for NCD Prevention, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Introduction: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) disproportionately affect low- and lower-middle income countries (LLMICs) where 80% of global NCD related deaths occur. LLMICs are the primary focus of interventions to address development and poverty indicators. We aimed to synthesise the evidence of these interventions' impact on the four primary NCDs (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) and their common behavioural risk factors (unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use).

Methods: We systematically searched four online databases (Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Global Health) for primary research conducted in LLMICS, published between January 1st 1990 and February 15th 2016. Studies involved development or poverty interventions which reported on outcomes relating to NCDs. We extracted summary level data on study design, population, health outcomes and potential confounders.

Results: From 6383 search results, 29 studies from 24 LLMICs published between 1999 and 2015 met our inclusion criteria. The quality of included studies was limited and heterogeneity of outcome measures required narrative synthesis. One study measured impact on NCD prevalence, one physical activity and 27 dietary components. The majority of papers (23), involved agricultural interventions. Primary outcome measures tended to focus on undernutrition. Intensive agricultural interventions were associated with improved calorie, vitamin, fruit and vegetable intake. However, positive impacts were reliant on participant's land ownership, infection status and limited in generalisability. Just three studies measured adult obesity; two indicated increased income and consequential food affordability had the potential to increase obesity. Overall, there was poor alignment between included studies outcome measures and the key policy options and objectives of the Global Action Plan on NCDs.

Conclusions: Though many interventions addressing poverty and development have great potential to impact on NCD prevalence and risk, most fail to measure or report these outcomes. Current evidence is limited to behavioural risk factors, namely diet and suggests a positive impact of agricultural-based food security programmes on dietary indicators. However, studies investigating the impact of improved income on obesity tend to show an increased risk. Embedding NCD impact evaluation into development programmes is crucial in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and the rapid epidemiological transitions facing LLMICs.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0193378PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5825092PMC
June 2018

Socioeconomic status and non-communicable disease behavioural risk factors in low-income and lower-middle-income countries: a systematic review.

Lancet Glob Health 2017 03;5(3):e277-e289

British Heart Foundation Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Background: Non-communicable diseases are the leading global cause of death and disproportionately afflict those living in low-income and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs). The association between socioeconomic status and non-communicable disease behavioural risk factors is well established in high-income countries, but it is not clear how behavioural risk factors are distributed within LLMICs. We aimed to systematically review evidence on the association between socioeconomic status and harmful use of alcohol, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity within LLMICs.

Methods: We searched 13 electronic databases, including Embase and MEDLINE, grey literature, and reference lists for primary research published between Jan 1, 1990, and June 30, 2015. We included studies from LLMICs presenting data on multiple measures of socioeconomic status and tobacco use, alcohol use, diet, and physical activity. No age or language restrictions were applied. We excluded studies that did not allow comparison between more or less advantaged groups. We used a piloted version of the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group data collection checklist to extract relevant data at the household and individual level from the included full text studies including study type, methods, outcomes, and results. Due to high heterogeneity, we used a narrative approach for data synthesis. We used descriptive statistics to assess whether the prevalence of each risk factor varied significantly between members of different socioeconomic groups. The study protocol is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42015026604.

Findings: After reviewing 4242 records, 75 studies met our inclusion criteria, representing 2 135 314 individuals older than 10 years from 39 LLMICs. Low socioeconomic groups were found to have a significantly higher prevalence of tobacco and alcohol use than did high socioeconomic groups. These groups also consumed less fruit, vegetables, fish, and fibre than those of high socioeconomic status. High socioeconomic groups were found to be less physically active and consume more fats, salt, and processed food than individuals of low socioeconomic status. While the included studies presented clear patterns for tobacco use and physical activity, heterogeneity between dietary outcome measures and a paucity of evidence around harmful alcohol use limit the certainty of these findings.

Interpretation: Despite significant heterogeneity in exposure and outcome measures, clear evidence shows that the burden of behavioural risk factors is affected by socioeconomic position within LLMICs. Governments seeking to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4-reducing premature non-communicable disease mortality by a third by 2030-should leverage their development budgets to address the poverty-health nexus in these settings. Our findings also have significance for health workers serving these populations and policy makers tasked with preventing and controlling the rise of non-communicable diseases.

Funding: WHO.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30058-XDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5673683PMC
March 2017
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