How to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic?
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and its prevalence has increased at an alarming rate in the last decades. The main problem is that overweight and obese children are likely to remain obese in adulthood and more likely to develop noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. An integrated EU approach to help reduce the impact on health of poor nutrition, excess weight and obesity is a political objective. A wide range of factors interacting at various levels are known to be associated with obesity. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Starting from an early age, diet and lifestyle have a strong impact on health throughout life. Therefore, the prevention of childhood obesity needs to be given a high priority.
Within the context of improving the health of citizens and promoting sustainable economic growth, the main objective is to reduce childhood obesity and its comorbidities effectively. Proposals should focus primarily on specific target groups in the young (e.g., during pregnancy and foetal development, in infants, toddlers, most vulnerable groups in children, adolescents). To better understand the complex interactions between the factors influencing obesity in individuals and populations, it is necessary to combine the approaches and expertise from different disciplines (e.g. (epi)genetics, molecular biology, microbiome, gut-brain signalling, physiology, nutrition, physical activity sciences, information and communication technology, social sciences and humanities, education, environment, architectural and urban design, psychology). Proposals should consider a range of geographic, socio-economic, behavioural and cultural factors. Proposals should aim at innovative and efficient strategies, tools and/or programmes for promoting sustainable and healthy dietary behaviours and lifestyles. Proposals should reflect and build on existing initiatives and platforms and should provide a robust science-based impact assessment of the tools, strategies and/or programmes delivered for further consideration by policy makers. Tackling this societal challenge requires both interdisciplinary and multi-actor approaches engaging academics, policy makers, civil society and relevant industry and market actors. The gender dimension in the research content shall also be taken in account. In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation, international cooperation is encouraged, in particular with the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Proposals should fall under the concept of the 'multi-actor approach'.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
In the effort to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic, proposals should show how some, or all, of the following impacts will be achieved:
- Provide an understanding of which factors are involved and how they influence the childhood obesity epidemic.
- Provide innovative, efficient, effective, scientific evidence-based and ready-to-use tools, strategies and/or programmes to improve sustainable and healthy dietary behaviour and lifestyles in children.
- Transfer the generated knowledge and innovation to relevant stakeholders.
- Strengthen interdisciplinary research approaches and foster participatory and inclusive multi-actor approaches for long-lasting implementation of the results obtained.