The 31st European Congress on Obesity (ECO) was held this year in Venice, Italy, hosted by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO) and Societa Italiana dell’ Obesita (SIO). ECO2024 took place from 12-15th May, featuring obesity research in basic science, behavioural and public health, childhood and adolescent obesity, and management and intervention. Attendees from 103 countries brought expertise from fields such as physiology, endocrinology, neuroscience, paediatrics, genetics, and nutrition. 

Teaching Workshops 

Day 1 featured Teaching Workshops aimed at enhancing attendees’ skills through demonstrations and discussions. The EASO Childhood Obesity Working Group, chaired by EASO Present-Elect Dr Jennifer Baker and the Paediatric Co-Chair of the EASO Collaborating Centres for Obesity Management (COMs) Network, Prof Melania Manco, addressed issues in paediatric obesity prevention and management. Topics included early prevention, holistic management approaches, and navigating metabolic issues, concluding with a group discussion. 

Oral and Poster Presentations 

The subsequent days of ECO2024 featured many sessions dedicated to childhood obesity, particularly in the “Treatment of Obesity in Children and Adolescents” track. Topics included: paediatric obesity treatment, family-based interventions for obesity, paediatric healthcare management, metabolic health, long-term treatment outcomes, mental health in childhood, environmental factors related to obesity, and parental perspectives. 

Awards for Research Excellence 

Prof Antje Körner was awarded the EASO-NNF Excellence prize for her groundbreaking work on childhood obesity origins and consequences, receiving DKK 1.7 million in research funding.  Prof Körner plans to use this funding to investigate methods to identify children at greatest risk of early metabolic deterioration and development of obesity, and hopes this research will provide scientific evidence of the sustained benefit of early intervention and initiation of treatment in these children. 

Early career researchers presented award-winning work in childhood obesity as part of the EASO-NNF New Investigator Awards, which are accompanied by research grants of DKK 300.000. This year, winner of the Childhood Obesity Award, Dr Andrew Agbaje presented work on refocussing measurement of childhood obesity from BMI. The EASO-NNF New Investigator Award 2023 in Childhood Obesity, Dr Cristina Cadenas-Sanchez, returned to ECO to update on how the research funding supported her work on the association between physical activity and brain health, fitness and fat deposition among children with obesity

The 2024 EASO Early Career Network Best Thesis Award was presented to Dr Rebecca Evans, for her research on the scope and impact of digital food marketing through videogame livestreaming platforms on young people’s eating behaviours and health. 

Collaborative Efforts and Future Directions 

ECO2024 also highlighted clinical knowledge from the EASO Collaborating Centres for Obesity Management (COMs), which is a network of accredited centres specialising in obesity management, with presentations from centres in Switzerland, Belgium, Poland, the UK, and Italy. Elsewhere, in effort to bring together people working across the field, Prof Grace O’Malley and colleagues convened an informal group to promote wider collaboration and knowledge sharing in childhood obesity. The European Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ECPO) also launched a children’s book, “Mum, What is Obesity”, which aims to inspire and support caregivers in starting important family conversations on this topic, free from bias or stigma, using the latest scientific knowledge in simple, age-appropriate language. 

The congress also offered the opportunity to promote Bio-Streams research activities and connect with other EU Commission-funded projects, including those focussing on childhood obesity. The diversity of sessions emphasised the multifaceted nature of childhood obesity and the need for comprehensive, collaborative approaches to addressing this disease. ECO2024 underscored progress and challenges, paving the way for future research and interventions to improve children’s health and wellbeing globally.