Apostolos Vandarakis, Professor of Medicine, Univeristy of Patras

It is a pioneering European program for the improvement of children’s health (pre-school and school age) in which our country participates. The implementing bodies of the programme are the 6th Regional Health Department and the University of Patras, under the supervision of Professor A. Vandarakis (Laboratory of Hygiene, University of Patras Medical School). Volunteer doctors participating in the program are provided by the Paediatric Clinic of the University General Hospital of Patras, under the direction of Professor G.Demetriou.

The program, which is implemented in many European countries, aims to apply proven good health promotion practices (“Grunau Moves” from Germany and “Smart Family” from Finland) for the prevention of non-communicable diseases and for the adoption of a healthy lifestyle by the school population, especially on the issue of childhood obesity. What makes this program particularly important is the involvement of many stakeholders, but also of the children themselves, teachers and parents-guardians in the definition of key actions, actions that will respond to the needs, characteristics and requirements of each region. Another important component of the program is the creation of health promotion policies and their subsequent implementation by finding funding bodies at community level.

The ultimate goal is to educate students and their families as well as encourage them to follow a healthy lifestyle, which will be based on the Mediterranean diet, systematic exercise and free play. At the same time, the program aims to strengthen children’s self-confidence and self-esteem through making decisions that affect their health (education through experiential play). An important element of the program is the strengthening of breastfeeding in adult women, protecting the health of mother and child from the very first stages of life.

“Grunau moves” is a complex, multi-level intervention program that focuses on actions in the community. The participation of the population is particularly important and the intervention is adapted to the students’ environment. The creation of strong social ties and a health action group are key points that will help to continue the implementation of the program in the future.

The direct objectives of the program are:

  1. The creation of structures that promote children’s health by strengthening information, knowledge and cooperation of health and education agencies
  2. The creation of an environment (school, social and family) that promotes physical activity and sport
  3. The adoption of a healthy diet for children and their families

Through the program, children and their families and, by extension, their social groups will be educated on how to choose to live healthily themselves. A healthy lifestyle will reduce the incidence of diseases such as obesity and in the long run will improve the health of the population.

As part of “Grunau moves”, the program is implemented in the 29th and 32nd Primary schools of Patras in Psarofai. The monthly actions include the strengthening of healthy eating and physical activity (speeches, discussions with children and families, posters, experiential play, shaping school and community spaces, sports activities, etc.) as well as encouraging health decision-making (what do I choose to eat, I don’t forget to play every day, what snacks I have with me at school, how I help my friends to live healthy, what time I sleep at night, etc.). In addition, in February the students were invited to participate in an experiential workshop at KEFIAP Paralias (the space was provided by the Karamandanio University) in which, through many stations, the students had the opportunity to learn to read food labels, to understand how they can apply the Mediterranean diet in their daily life, to understand the portions of the various food categories. At the same time, they were trained on oral hygiene issues. Finally the students had the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy snacks and then they cooked and consumed their preparations.

B. “Smart Families” is an intervention program that focuses on the importance of proper counseling to protect and improve children’s health from the first day of their lives. The program has two main fronts: the mother who will soon give birth and all the children. The first front aims to educate and teach the mother to breastfeed by supporting her before and after the birth with trained staff (certified midwife, pediatrician, dietitian). The second front aims to train Health Professionals in new good counseling practices to strengthen better eating habits & behavior regardless of weight, always with the aim of optimal development and health of children. For the best implementation of the program, a website was also implemented under the auspices of the 6th Regional Health Department for everyone, health professionals, parents and children, which covers current issues of nutrition, health and physical activity (https://healthysmartfamilies.gr/index.php/monades-ygeias/).The program will continue through November 2024.

To date, several actions have been carried out which are presented in detail on the official page of the program https://healthymoves4kids.gr/ and https://www.dypede.gr/ health4eukids/.

On April 22, 2024, with the participation of public health agencies in our region and the free participation of teachers, parents and guardians of the primary schools of Patras, an event entitled “Childhood Obesity in the Spotlight – Good Practices” will be held. The health promotion programs, such as Health4EUkids is the best investment of modern society to improve the education and health of the population by strengthening the right choices of each individual.

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