As patron of the European WHO branch in Copenhagen, crown princess Mary recorded an English video message on obesity and a healthy lifestyle that was shown at the "WHO Conference Counteracting Obesity" in Istanbul, Turkey. Mary was not present at the conference.
The video was later also broadcast on Danish channel TV2.
The message was recorded at Mary's home, Kancellihuset in Fredensborg.
Honourable Ministers, EU Commissioner, Regional Director, distinguished guests, I am delighted to have this opportunity to say a few words on the occasion of the World Health Organization European Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity.
In my capacity as patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, part of my role is to generate greater public awareness about how important physical activity and a balanced diet is to our health and wellbeing, and the fundamental role these two factors have in combating obesity.
There is no doubt that obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges facing the WHO European Region today. I find it particularly alarming that about 20% of children are currently overweight. If we do not take action now, it is projected that one in ten will be obese by 2010. It is vital that we ensure that the environment in which our children grow up supports their health. Fundamentally, that means making healthy food more available and giving children the space and opportunities to be physically active.
As a parent, I want to make sure that my son receives the best nutritional start in life as possible. When Prince Christian was born, I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed, and as he grows, I am keen to encourage his natural curiosity for different tastes by building on the good start through a healthy, varied diet. I would like to see that when the time comes, that the school he will attend encourages healthy, nutritious food and drinks and plenty of opportunity for physical activity. I hope this good start will leave a lasting imprint, and establish healthy habits for a lifetime. As patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, I am aware that many people in the Region face considerable challenges in building this healthy nutritional base for their children.
Our increasingly busy lives mean that we rely more and more on energy and time-saving technology. The majority of us are not active enough, and levels of physical activity continue to fall. Yet small changes – cycling to work, taking the stairs, walking to the shops, playing actively instead of watching television - can make a big difference. The gains are considerable if, as recent research indicates, daily moderate physical activity can extend a person’s life by several years. Adapting the environment in which people live to enable them to be more active also has so many other benefits beyond the health of individuals. The next ‘Move for Health Day’ in May 2007 will be an important day to further increase the focus on physical activity.
My work, as patron for a charitable organization for children in Denmark, the Christmas Seal Foundation, has shown me first hand how strongly children’s health is influenced by their surroundings, and when they are struggling, how simple interventions can put them back on track. During a 10 week stay at one of the Foundation’s homes, children learn about healthy eating and how important, and fun, physical activity can be. This offers them a chance to change unhealthy habits in a secure, positive environment, surrounded by others with similar experiences. Just as important, is working with the children to find their happiness and self confidence again, which will give them the requisite tools to stay on the right track.
There are so many good examples of projects and programmes throughout the WHO European Region addressing the issue of obesity. I have found the number of activities submitted for the Counteracting Obesity Award, and the wealth of experience and ideas they bring, truly inspiring. I would therefore like to give special acknowledgement to all those who took part, and warmly congratulate those who have been selected to receive an award.
It is heartening that a problem such as obesity, that crosses so many parts of society, has brought so many different groups together in Istanbul, groups committed to finding appropriate and effective solutions. The Conference is an important step towards counteracting obesity, and I hope it will provide you with the knowledge and necessary support for the journey ahead. May your discussions be productive, and resolutions strong. I look forward to following your discussions and decisions with great interest.
Good luck and thank you.