Experts convene in Uppsala for summit on childhood obesity

30 August 2016

Schools, healthcare and grocery chains all have important roles in the fight against childhood obesity.

On 10–12 October, it’s once again time for Uppsala Health Summit. The summit, which is held at Uppsala Castle, invites a select group of decision-makers, opinion leaders and experts from healthcare, academia and the business community to come together and discuss important issues. Last year, the topic of the summit was antibiotic resistance. This year, the summit will discuss the growing childhood obesity epidemic.

Childhood obesity significantly increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer. For two intensive days, delegates will discuss prevention, treatment and how to deal with the inequalities in living conditions for children in terms of access to healthy food and exercise. The summit invites 200 delegates from across the globe.

The programme for Uppsala Health Summit on Childhood Obesity is based on the recommendations of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2016. The Commission reported that 41 million of the world’s children under five years old were overweight or obese in 2014. In 1990, this figure was 31 million. The expert panel behind the report wrote in summary that the obesity epidemic risks neutralising much of the health progress that has contributed to the increase in global average life expectancy.

“Our aim is to discuss how the WHO Commission recommendations can be transformed into concrete action, based on current research and developments in various areas, and be used in different geographical regions and by different actors to reduce childhood obesity,” says Uppsala Health Summit Project Manager Madeleine Neil. 

As inspiration for the discussion, Uppsala Health Summit offers a number of stimulating lectures with top names in childhood obesity research. The speaker list includes Gabriel Wikström, Swedish Minister for Health Care, Public Health and Sport, and Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Department for Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases. Other speakers include food policy expert Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University London, and Boyd Swinburn, Professor at the University of Auckland with several honorary appointments at WHO and the World Obesity Federation.

“As always, we are keen to bring in different perspectives to Uppsala Health Summit”, continues Madeleine Neil. “It is particularly important in this issue, where many stakeholders in society need to work together to ensure a healthy environment for our children to grow up in. Schools play an important role, as does healthcare, and not least, the grocery chains, which have an enormous influence on what we are tempted to buy and what we eat. What makes our summit unique is that all of these different stakeholders will come together here to find common solutions.”

Uppsala Health Summit is a collaborative project between eight partner organisations: the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala County Council, the Municipality of Uppsala, the Swedish Medical Products Agency, the National Veterinary Institute, World Class Uppsala, the National Food Agency and Uppsala University, which is also hosting the project. The Programme Committee ( ) includes researchers and experts from SLU, Uppsala University and the National Food Agency.



Several researchers from Uppsala University play an active role in the planning and implementation of the summit and are also responsible for individual workshops:

  • Peter Bergsten from the Department of Medical Cell Biology is holding a workshop on finding a model for multi-sector cooperation on childhood obesity.
  • Erik Grönqvist, researcher at the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU) and the Department of Economics at Uppsala University, is responsible for issues concerning policy tools, such as taxes on sugar.
  • Meena Daivadanam from the Department of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics is organising a workshop on empowerment – how we can help families take control of their living situations.


Kerstin Stewart