Friday, May 11, 2007

Exploration of economic measures to promote healthful eating

A recent paper in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity explores important 'economic environment' intervention possibilities to promote healthful dietary habits. This approach is much debated, and this paper sheds some empirical light on the issue. The paper is 'open access' and can be found at ; see for more intresting papers.
This paper by Danish researchers Jensen and Smed addresses the potential for using economic regulation, e.g. taxes or subsidies, as instruments to combat the increasing problems of inappropriate diets, leading to health problems such as obesity, diabetes 2, cardiovascular diseases etc. in most countries. Such policy measures may be considered as alternatives or supplements to other regulation instruments, including information campaigns, bans or enhancement of technological solutions to the problems of obesity or related diseases. 7 different food tax and subsidy instruments or combinations of instruments are analysed quantitatively. The analyses demonstrate that the average cost-effectiveness with regard to changing the intake of selected nutritional variables can be improved by 10–30 per cent if taxes/subsidies are targeted against these nutrients, compared with targeting selected food categories. Finally, the paper raises a range of issues, which need to be investigated further, before firm conclusions about the suitability of economic instruments in nutrition policy can be drawn.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The last preparations for ISBNPA 2007 in Oslo

Next month the 7th annual meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA) will take place in Oslo, Norway. This annual meeting will be from June 21 to 23. As president-elect of ISBNPA I am responsible for the program of this year's meeting. I worked closely with an international program committee to select and 'recruit' international scientists of great stature to give keynotes or organise a symposium on emerging issues in behavioral nutrition and physical activity. Furthermore, a record-high number of colleagues submitted abstracts for oral and poster presentations during the meeting. The willingness and enthusiasm of these colleagues to contribute to ISBNPA Olso's program resulted in another record: about 450 participants have already registered for the conference, which is more than any other ISBNPA annual meeting. See for the latest version of the preliminary program and for registration forms.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New edition of the Dutch Health Education book

Today I received my complementary copies of the new edition of the Dutch handbook on health education and behavior change that I edited together with Dr. Patricia van Assema of Maastricht University and Professor Lilian Lechner of the Netherlands Open University.

The title of the book is Gezondheidsvoorlichting en gedragsverandering: Een planmatige aanpak (Health Education and Behavior Change: A Planned Approach). Brug J. Van Assema P, Lechner L (Eds.). Assen, the Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 2007.

The book underwent a complete revision. I am very grateful to the authors of the different chapters, to the Netherlands Open University and Van Gorcum publishers for the support, and my co-editors for making this new version possible. More information on the book can be found at

The HOPE project is about to really start

On June 4 and 5 the HOPE project kick off meeting will be. HOPE stands for Health promotion through Obesity Prevantion across Europe. HOPE is financed by the Commission of the European Community in its 6th framework programme.

HOPE focuses on overweight and obesity as one of the main determinants
of loss of healthy life years and of health disparities in Europe. In particular, it focuses on
expanding understanding of the key lifestyle factors nutrition and physical activity,
which are the major proximal determinants of overweight and obesity. It aims at identifying
(I) socio-economic and environmental determinants of these behaviours; and (II)
effective intervention settings and approaches to address these determinants aiming at
obesity prevention and reductions in inequalities in obesity-related health risks.

I am lucky enough to act as coordinator of the HOPE project, assisted by Drs. Maurcio Anedano Pabon and Willemieke Kroeze, and in close collaboration with the International Obesity Task Force/ International Association of the Stucy of Obesity, Professor Philip James and Dr Tim Lobstein.

In HOPE researchers from a number of excellent institutes join forces and HOPE will create a network-of-networks of all obesity prevention projects in Europe to better inform the European community about ways to tackle the obesity epidemic.

The HOPE website will be launched soon.

My first few weeks at the EMGO Institute

April 2, 2007 was my first day of work here at the EMGO Research Institute at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (See my office in the picture; people tell me that there are two main differences compared to the former director: there is a computer and its certainly less organised...)

My first experiences have all been positive. I immediately had a busy schedule mainly to get to know as many people within the EMGO institute and the VU University Medical Center in a short period of time.

I was introduced to the EMGO bureau staff where EMGO's crucial financial, organizational and ICT support is concentrated.

I had meetings with representatives of the EMGO's facilitating committees (i.e. the quality committee, the scientific committee, the education committee), with program leaders of the four research programs within EMGO (see, and with a number of other key people within the intitute, as well as with EMGO external advisory board.

I also joined a two day policy meeting with the Board of the VU University Medical Center to talk about the policy strategies of our medical center for the next 5 years.

In these weeks my earlier impressions of EMGO as an excellent research institute with many excellent researchers was confirmed. In these first few weeks I have also experienced that EMGO offers a friendly and cooperative work environment.