CO-CREATE | World Obesity Federation


The CO-CREATE project – Confronting Obesity: Co-creating policy with youth (2018-2023) – set out to tackle childhood and adolescent obesity and its co-morbidities by working with young people to develop tools and practices to strengthen their role in policy development.

The project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The project engaged international partners from different policy contexts in Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Portugal and Poland, with additional partners in Australia, the USA and South Africa. 

Members of the CO-CREATE team at project kick-off:

With a key focus on the co-creation process, participatory action research methodologies used by the CO-CREATE project involved young people in the project’s design, activities and outputs.

Above all, the CO-CREATE project has shown that a team of researchers, civil society, government agencies and youth organisations can provide a synergy that rarely exists in social research, that young people can provide new insights into obesity prevention, and that their voices should be heard.


What CO-CREATE achieved

CO-CREATE successfully shows that young people:

  • can meaningfully enter into extended collaboration and come up with policy proposals which are specific to their own experiences, and may challenge professionals’ assumptions.
  • support structural policies based on making changes to systems and find this is preferable to policies that rely on individual lifestyle change.
  • can work together with adults to explore attitudes and opinions on what needs to change. Activities need preparation and a high degree of flexibility, and the ability to renegotiate the aims as the project progresses. Participatory action needs to be structured and resourced (including financial support).
  • support policies to increase the use of economic tools to address affordability of healthier foods, to ensure supply chains are coherent with health policies, and to support active transport and design neighbourhoods for safe and healthful physical activity.
  • have the potential to act as powerful agents of change. The CO-CREATE project ran 15 Youth Alliances and 20 Dialogue Forums in which young people discussed their views and priorities with policy-makers, politicians, educators, health professionals, civil society groups and commercial operators.

A few of the CO-CREATE Project themes

CO-CREATE teams revealed new links between overweight and mental ill-health among adolescents, using a novel systems dynamics model to analyse large survey databases of young people’s health behaviour. It showed no single intervention would be sufficient to tackle obesity. CO-CREATE has also designed and published the STAR framework protocol to help researchers design systems-based research projects.

For young people, social media is deeply embedded in young people’s daily environment and self-promoted influencers can affect dietary behaviour and attitudes to overweight and obesity. CO-CREATE research shows social media can also affect mental health.

The ‘Youth-Led Change: A Systems Thinking Activity Toolkit’ and the Dialogue Forum Tool can be used by and with youth, to involve policymakers and other relevant stakeholders to connect, discuss and collaborate on an idea or initiative. It can be applied to any topic beyond public health!

The CO-CREATE Youth Task Force is urging researchers, policymakers and stakeholders to involve youth in a meaningful way. They invited youth organisations present at the Final Conference to sign the Youth Task Force’s Open letter to push for more youth involvement and youth empowerment across decision-making processes.

CO-CREATE has generated databases of physical activity and nutrition policies along with methods for benchmarking and indexing the policies. These CO-CREATE tools provide a means for independent assessment of progress, so that governments can be held accountable.

Download the NOURISHING and MOVING policy briefs in English, Spanish, French and German alongside all our European country snapshots in English and in the national language here.

CO-CREATE Final Conference
Brussels, 12-13 October 2023

The CO-CREATE Final Conference, co-hosted with WHO Europe, brought together all project partners and stakeholders to celebrate the achievements and impact of this joint project.

CO-CREATE Final Conference

In the 2-day conference, 180 attendees representing youth and government, from 49 countries in Europe and other parts of the world, both online and in-person, heard about the journey, tools and outputs, engaged in discussions and workshops on future perspectives of co-creating policies with youth in health and beyond.

CO-CREATE’s Youth Taskforce were joined at the Conference by youth representatives of the International Youth Organisation, MOVENDI International, the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), Youth4Health Network, EuroHealthNet, WHO Youth Council, Biteback 2030 and the Youth Environmental Council of the Netherlands.

If you'd like to know more about the Final Conference, including access to recordings from both days, presentations and the full programme of events and speakers, you can access this here.

Final Conference

Resources produced by CO-CREATE

Many resources have been created by the CO-CREATE team through the project and these are all available to read online without charge.

They are intended to support policy-makers, civil society and advocacy organisations, researchers, educators, health professionals, the media, and above all young people wanting to explore the issues in further depth.

You can find links to all the resources here:

CO-CREATE Resources

Co-creating the future!

CO-CREATE'S policy priorities for Europe

The CO-CREATE project, taken together with three other major projects active 2018-2023*, has shown…

  • … the EU needs a new Action Plan for Child and Adolescent Obesity, consulting youth and taking their experiences into account.
  • … young people strongly support structural reforms of obesogenic environments, including reduced marketing of unhealthy products and fiscal policies for health investment.
  • … inequalities should be addressed through universal, proportionate reform of food supply, catering and marketing systems affecting young people.
  • … civil society needs to monitor policy development and hold responsible authorities accountable, using freely available tools developed by CO-CREATE.
  • young people should be encouraged and supported in developing their advocacy skills, with opportunities for training and skills development, and with financial resources.

* PEN (Joint Action Policy Evaluation Network), STOP (Science and Technology in childhood Obesity Policy), Best-ReMaP (Joint Action on implementation of validated best practices on nutrition).

CO-CREATE’s research priorities for Europe

CO-CREATE benefited from a Horizon 2020 programme that took the risk to support a project which deliberately did not have pre-determined outcomes as that would have precluded the co-creation with youth that was central to the project’s ethos. In the future, funding agencies should encourage …

  • … investing in flexible projects that investigate people’s lived experiences and people’s ability to participate in advocacy for change.
  • … incorporating systems approaches into health and social policy research. Localised interventions have had only limited effects. Population-wide, structural interventions need evaluation.
  • … participatory action research that provides unique insights and opportunities for understanding lived experiences and for assessing the effects of policies in advance of implementation.
  • … methods for predicting the effects of policies through health impact analysis and especially health equity impact analysis. These need to be developed to the point where they can be used routinely for policy assessment.
  • … researchers to be aware that their language and their assumptions may not be familiar to young people. Use of tools developed in CO-CREATE can help reveal unexpected issues in tackling obesity, including mental health and exposure to social media and weight stigma.

The CO-CREATE team at the Final Conference in October 2023:

Explore more about CO-CREATE:

CO-CREATE Resources

Resources created by the CO-CREATE team are available to read online without charge. They are intended to support policy-makers, civil society and advocacy organisations, researchers, educators, health professionals, the media, and above all young people wanting to explore the issues in further depth.

Healthy Voices

Don't forget to check out Healthy Voices, an interactive website containing tools and expetise about how to become an agent for change in the youth health agenda. It features videos, factsheets, infographics, policy briefs, blog platforms, advocacy tools, personal experiences and more.

CO-CREATE Publications

A list of all publications from the CO-CREATE project can be browsed on the CO-CREATE website.


The scientific papers are all open access and do not require journal subscriptions. Selected deliverables are also published here.

The CO-CREATE project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 774210.

You can visit the CO-CREATE website here.

And for additional information on the project, please contact our policy and advocacy team on

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