Earlier this month, four European projects – STOP, CO-CREATE, PEN and Best-ReMaP – came together for a conference exploring future directions for nutrition and physical activity across Europe.
Through their work, each project is exploring different considerations, emerging evidence and policy monitoring for improving nutrition and physical activity to help prevent childhood obesity, other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and improve the health of populations.
The joint project symposium included discussions on several priority policy areas for the prevention of NCDs, including childhood obesity, the impact of wider exposures and early life experiences, new monitoring and accountability frameworks and tools for tracking policies and their implementation. While it appears evident that our knowledge of policies and policy implementation in this area is advancing, there remains a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be, and a strong, coordinated response at EU level is needed to address this.
World Obesity is a Work Package leader in both STOP and CO-CREATE, responsible for the dissemination and communication activities of the project. Together with PEN and Best-ReMaP, we have developed tools, evidence and knowledge that now need to be used, updated, and enhanced to improve health and reduce risk of disease across Europe. Some of the collective achievements to date include:
- Advanced understanding of the determinants of childhood obesity including interactions between environment and exposure and recognition that risk starts before birth
- Enhanced policy auditing and monitoring of policy implementation, providing mechanisms to monitor, track and identify good practice in nutrition and physical activity
- Enhanced support for policymakers for implementing policies
- Advanced moves towards greater surveillance and policy harmonisation across Europe
- Advanced knowledge on ways of mobilising and engaging different stakeholders, including holding them to account
Building on the discussions held throughout the conference, we make the following recommendations as priority for European nutrition and physical activity policies:
- Develop new action plans/roadmaps to help address childhood obesity and support healthier populations
- Transform systems and strengthen food and physical activity policies to shape environments across Europe
- Prioritise addressing inequalities and supporting young people
- Harmonise data, evidence generation and full realisation of impact
- Strengthen stakeholder engagement in policy development, implementation and evaluation
About the four projects
JA Best-ReMaP brings together food authorities and other relevant stakeholders of the Member States. It involves working with good practices in the areas of food reformulation, reducing food marketing to children, and public procurement of healthy food in public settings. By adapting, replicating and implementing effective health interventions, they would like to contribute to an increased offer of healthier food options available to children in EU markets. Building on this work, the JA is supporting implementation, transfer, and integration of the results, outcomes, and recommendations of the JA Best-ReMaP into national and EU-level policies.
Through a more experimental approach, CO-CREATE aims to investigate how policy changes can support healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle to halt the rise of adolescent obesity. By focusing on upstream factors and context change instead of on individual behaviour change, CO-CREATE hopes to generate sustainable impacts that contribute to narrowing inequalities. The project provides a model for how to involve young people and the range of relevant stakeholders by explicitly politicising the issue of obesity, providing specific obesity-related policy proposals, and designing and testing advocacy tools and strategies for implementation and evaluation.
The Policy Evaluation Network’s (PEN) vision is to provide Europe with tools to identify, evaluate and benchmark policies designed to address physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and sedentary behaviour while accounting directly or indirectly for existing health inequalities. PEN aims to deliver an overview of the ‘best’ public policies most likely to sustainably support more favourable health behaviours. PEN will assess public policies with potential influence on food and physical activity environments; foster a pan-European monitoring and surveillance system; model the impact of policies at the population level; evaluate policy implementation processes and their facilitators and barriers; and give recommendations for an equity and diversity perspective in policies directly or indirectly targeting dietary, physical activity, or sedentary behaviours across Europe.
The Science and Technology in childhood Obesity Policy (STOP) project aims at expanding and consolidating the multi-disciplinary evidence base upon which effective and sustainable policies can be built to prevent and manage childhood obesity. Through a more traditional approach, the project aims to produce evidence that is relevant for policymakers and help them address the problem of childhood obesity. Specifically, the project focuses on the core idea that obesity has multiple and diverse characterisations, and therefore that one-size-fits-all policy approaches to childhood obesity are bound to fail. The scientific component of the project is designed to recognise diversity and support the development of tailored solutions.