Ladies and Gentlemen,
If people, who lived a hundred years ago, could see us now they would shake their heads in disbelief.
They would see...
...a world where we suffer from health problems as a direct result of eating too much and not being active enough
... a world where we drive our care to a parking lot and from there take the elevator up to a room filled with equipment, that we pull, push, lift, and run on, in order to exhaust ourselves, so that we can then continue to eat more than our bodies actually need, for the lives we live.
They would see a world where 1 billion people do not have enough food and 1.5 billion are overweight or obese.
For the last 15 years I have worked in different ways to promote healthy living, to help people exercise and eat right.
I have had the opportunity to study lifestyle related diseases, child obesity and diabetes at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
This has deepened my knowledge and strengthened my desire to take part in fighting these diseases.
It is a great honor, therefore, to take part in this exciting and important seminar.
I believe that most of you would agree, when I say that it is difficult to get everything right when it comes to exercising, getting enough sleep and eating regular and healthy meals.
How we live our lives affects, to a high degree, whether or not we are able to avoid lifestyle related diseases, such as being overweight, obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance etc., which often lead to heart and vascular diseases and type two diabetes.
This is something we can influence, if we exercise more and eat healthily — we can turn the trend. Of course, medicine and healthcare providers play a crucial role in many cases.
In Sweden, we have relatively good health.
We are the first country in the world to meet the WHO target of having fewer than 20% smokers.
We are one of the top countries in the world that have the lowest rate of child mortality and we have a quite unique system of monitoring child development.
But, even we have big challenges of course.
In a study of 10 year old boys in Sweden between 1984 and the year 200 the number of overweight had doubled and obesity was four times higher. Luckily we have seen that the curves for obesity have leveled out lately, but now on a higher level.
Why are children overweight or obese?
We know that genes are a big factor and some people seem to store fat, almost like the body does not expect a regular supply of food.
No doubt, genes are a factor but it is our way of life which decides whether or not our genes will have the final say.
In other words — exercise and a healthy diet will help most people, bad genes or not.
A major factor is what we consume.
In 1980, a Swede would drink about 30 liters, or 8 gallon, of soda per year. Today the figure stands at 90 liters, or 24 gallons, per year.
However, it is much harder today than it was 20 years ago for parents to get their children to go out and play.
My parents had to constantly beg me to stop my outdoor activities and come inside. Today, parents have to beg their children to go out and play.
So let me conclude by saying:
We are facing a massive challenge in terms of lifestyle related diseases, also among our children. It is our duty to do something about this.
I believe that the most important gift we can give our children is the chance to live a long and healthy life.
I think we can do this by being good role models. It is not what we say, but what we do that counts.
Taking up good habits like a walk every day and eat a fruit is easier that getting rid of bad habits.
Good habits are what we want to pass on to our future generations.