Obesity in children is an important health concern, accelerating throughout the world with particular alarming trends in Europe. A comprehensive and detailed assessment of the magnitude of this public health problem was imperative to stimulate adequate political response and the need was recognized for standardized European-wide harmonized surveillance systems on which policy development within the WHO European Region could be based.
As a follow-up to this recommendation, the Nutrition and Food Security Programme of WHO/Europe established the European Childhood Obesity Surveillance System (COSI) in 2007, and Portugal was one of the 13 countries who have joined this initiative.
COSI/WHO Europe is an ongoing, systematic process of collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of descriptive information for monitoring excess body weight. The system aims to measure trends in overweight and obesity in children aged 6-10 year-old every three years, in order to have a correct understanding of the progress of the epidemic, to reverse the epidemic but also allowing inter- country comparisons within the WHO European Region.
The implementation of a simple, standardized, harmonized and sustainable surveillance system was important to fill the current gap in longitudinal information on nutritional status, tackle and monitor the obesity epidemic in children and identify groups at risk as well as can be merged with other protocols to evaluate the impact of obesity preventive interventions in school settings. Therefore, a robust monitoring system that covers similar age groups with standardized methods of surveillance and research was needed.
In Portugal, this system has been conducted by the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge and the Directorate General of Health and implemented by the Regional Health Authorities (ARS) in all seven Portuguese Regions: North; Centre; Lisbon and Tagus Valley; Alentejo; Algarve; Azores and Madeira.
CEIDSS is the technical supporting organization and data manager of COSI Portugal. Working directly with the Institutions of the Ministry of Health of Portugal as well as with the COSI European team, CEIDSS provides each round COSI training to 200 examiners, provides technical and equipment support for the project. It is also responsible for the Data management: processing, management and validation of Databases of COSI Portugal.