Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An expert meeting to inform the Dutch obesity prevention research agenda

Yesterday an expert meeting took place in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. This expert meeting was organised by RESCON Research & Consultancy ( in cooperation with the Department of Health Education and Promotion of Maastricht University ( and was part of a project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development ( to define their mid-term research agenda for obesity prevention. The organisers of the meeting had provided an overview of provisional research priorities based on literature reviews. This overview was used as the main input for two discussion sessions, one among experts involved in policy and practice related to obesity prevention in the Netherlands, the other among researchers in this field. The first group included representatives of the Dutch ministry of health, municipal health services, the Netherlands Heart Association and Diabetes Federation. The second group consisted of researchers from the university medical centres of VU University, Amsterdam University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Maastricht University. I chaired the discussion among the researchers.
In both the discussions it was concluded that the limited means available for obesity prevention research should not be used to start new initiatives or to fund a few more small-scale studies to investigate yet another few details that may in the end contribute to obesity prevention. Both practitioners and researchers agreed that the available funding should add to the existing larger scale ongoing initiatives in the field of obesity prevention in the Netherlands where research, policy development and practical implementations go hand in hand. Important examples of such initiatives are the recently completed NHS-NRG study (see, the city-wide initiatives in the cities of Rotterdam and Zwolle, and the so-called ‘academic workplaces’ in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where universities, the municipal health services and other local health organisations work together to combine research and practice to enhance obesity prevention. See for example The OPOZ (‘research program for obesity prevention in Zwolle; program with the ChecKid study in the city of Zwolle, led by professor Jaap Seidell is arguably the most comprehensive initiative in the Netherlands to curb the obesity epidemic in a local initiative involving all stakeholders, and accompanied by good-quality research to build the evidence-base for such community-based obesity prevention.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Socioeconomic position in childhood and adulthood and associations with weight status

People who are less well-off in terms of income, education or job positions are more likely to be overweight or obese, at least in industrialized countries. Such socioeconomic inequalities in body weight have been demonstrated in numerous cross-sectional studies. With Katrina Giskes from the School of Public Health/Centre for Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia ( as first author we have now investigated such inequalities from a life course and longitudinal perspective. We examined the association between child- and adulthood socioeconomic position (SEP) and body mass index BMI and overweight/obesity in 1991 and changes in BMI and the prevalence of overweight and obesity between 1991 and 2004. The findings indicated that among women, childhood SEP was more important for body weight than SEP in adulthood: at baseline, women from disadvantaged backgrounds in childhood had a higher BMI and were more likely to be overweight or obese, and they gained significantly more weight between baseline and follow-up. In contrast, adult SEP had a greater impact than childhood circumstances on men's body weight: those from disadvantaged households had a higher mean BMI and were more likely to be overweight or obese at baseline, and they gained significantly more weight between 1991 and 2004. The findings suggest that exposure to disadvantaged circumstances at critically important periods of the life course is associated with body weight and weight gain in adulthood. Importantly, these etiologically relevant periods differ for men and women, suggesting gender-specific pathways to socioeconomic inequalities in body weight in adulthood.