Public Health Nutrition

Original Article

Prevention of overweight and obesity: a Spanish approach

Javier Arancetaa1a2 c1, Carmen Pérez-Rodrigoa1, Lluis Serra-Majema3, Diego Bellidoa4, Martín López de la Torrea5, Xavier Formigueraa6 and Basilio Morenoa7

a1 Community Nutrition Unit, Bilbao Department of Public Health, Luis Briñas, 18, 4th floor, 48013 Bilbao, Spain

a2 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain

a3 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain

a4 Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition, Hospital of El Ferrol, El Ferrol, Spain

a5 Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition, Hospital Virgen de las Nieves, Granada, Spain

a6 Obesity Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, Badalona, Spain

a7 Obesity Unit, Department of Endocrinology and Nutrition, Hospital Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain


Background Obesity is considered a major public health issue in most developed countries nowadays. This paper provides an overview of current population data available in Spain and the approach to develop preventive strategies in the country.

Methods Review of population data available is based on individually measured weight and height as well as determinants. On this basis, the approach used in the country to develop preventive strategies is discussed.

Results According to the DORICA study, the prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥30 kg m−2) is 15.5% in Spanish adults aged 25–60 years (13.2% in men and 17.5% in women). Obesity rates are higher among women aged 45 years and older, low social class, living in semi-urban places. Population estimates for the prevalence of obesity in Spanish children and young people based on the enKid study are 13.9% for the whole group. In this study, overweight and obesity is related to absence of breastfeeding, low consumption of fruit and vegetables, high consumption of cakes, buns, softdrinks and butchery products, low physical activity levels and a positive association with time spent watching TV.

In 2005, the Spanish Ministry of Health jointly with the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition launched the multifaceted NAOS strategy for nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of obesity. The important role of the family and the school setting as well as the responsibility of the Health Administration and Pediatric Care in the prevention of obesity is highlighted in the document. The need for environmental actions is recognised. The PERSEO programme, a multicomponent school-based intervention project is part of the strategy currently in place.

Conclusion Obesity is a public health issue in Spain. A national multifaceted strategy was launched to counteract the problem. Environmental and policy actions are a priority. Young children and their families are among the main target groups.

(Received December 2006)

(Accepted February 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email