Background: Childhood obesity is now firmly on the political agenda in western Europe but has received rather less attention in the eastern region of the European Union. This is a situation that cannot continue forever, especially in the light of evidence of the future social and economic cost of failure to act.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Latvia were conducted in October 2004 to understand the Latvian response to childhood obesity and, specifically, to soft drink consumption as one of its key risk factors. Analysis was undertaken using the established principles of stakeholder analysis to assess the position and influence of the stakeholders on consumption of soft drink consumption within broader efforts to curb obesity in children.
Results: Twenty interviews were conducted and no one refused to be interviewed. Most stakeholders were concerned or convinced of the importance of restricting soft drinks consumption as part of initiatives to prevent childhood obesity. The most influential and supportive stakeholders were high school and primary school directors and parent groups.
Conclusion: These findings help elucidate the actions of the Latvian government in November 2006 when it moved to ban certain foods and drinks from schools based on a concern for the adverse impact of additives on child health. The rapidity with which this poorly evidenced decision took place may have been supported by the unique context of an unstable government, nutrition leadership in dissolution, relatively weak industry influence and a surprisingly strong movement of teachers and parents.