Thursday, May 15, 2008

Health promotion through Obesity Prevention across Europe (HOPE): the Geneva Network of Networks meeting.

On Tuesday and Wednesday May 13 and 14, preceding the European Conference for Obesity research, we had our first HOPE ‘Network of Networks’ meeting.
The HOPE project is a sixth framework EU DG-research funded coordination action. HOPE stands for HEALTH-PROMOTION THROUGH OBESITY PREVENTION
HEALTH POLICY. Please see for more information on the project. The HOPE project is led by researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center (see and VU University Medical Center (see; in the Netherlands and the International Obesity Task Force ( Association for the Study of Obesity (, located in London, UK. Information on all partner organisations and researchers involved in the HOPE project can be found on our website, as well as a list of the obesity prevention networks that we identified in HOPE.

The HOPE project 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.
The overall objective of the present proposal is to improve the understanding of
determinants and interventions for obesity prevention in key age groups across Europe in
order to inform obesity prevention policy. HOPE focuses on obesity prevention, since treatment of obesity is largely ineffective. Specific objectives are:
- To create a network of networks of overweight and obesity research across EU Member
- To improve the understanding of overweight, obesity, nutrition and physical activity,
which may contribute to obesity prevention across Member States in infants, adolescents
and adults;
- To improve understanding of environmental determinants by assessing the impact of
both macro-policy and micro-level environmental factors at the family, school, workplace
and national policy level on obesity and obesity-preventive nutrition and physical activity
behaviours across Member States;
- To improve understanding of overweight and obesity-related health inequalities and their
determinants across Member States;
- To provide systematic reviews and inventories of evidence-based obesity prevention,
interventions and policies in and across Member States, with an emphasis on schools
and workplaces, taking into account the effectiveness and barriers for successful
- To develop scenarios of the future burden of disease of overweight and obesity, and to
forecast the impact of full implementation of best-practice policies and interventions in
European child, adolescent and adult populations.

One of the main aims is to build a network, or even better, a Network of Networks of researchers, linking with public health professionals and policy advocates, to create better mutual exchange of state-of-the-art information about obesity prevalence and prevention opportunities, and to ensure that the best available information is fed into the HOPE project’s epidemiological modelling to build evidence-based scenarios for the obesity prevention future for Europe.

In Geneva we had our mid-term Network of Networks meeting. In two half days, all the 10 work packages presented their goals and progress, that cover an inventory of obesity prevalence and trends across Europe, identification of important risk factors and behavioural determinants for unnecessary weight gain, and evidence for effectiveness of ongoing obesity prevention interventions. The presentations will be available at within the next week or so.

For each work package presentation we had invited 2-3 ‘discussants’ to review the work package, to help us identify the strengths and limitations of the work, and to help us identify opportunities for improvement. Leaders in the field from across Europe and beyond, such as professors and Drs Jaap Seidell, Boyd Swinburn, Carolyn Summerbell, Vojtech Hainer, Maia Konstantinova, Bert Koletzko, Kurt Widhalm, Lesley King, Peter Kopelman, Riva Prattala, , Francesco Branca, and Charlie Foster, representing different universities, national public health institutes and policy organisations, were kind enough to give us their feedback.

The reactions of the discussants triggered lively discussions among the other invitees.

Additionally, on the Tuesday evening we organised a dinner meeting with representatives from more recent EU member states in central and eastern Europe. During this buffet-meeting, short presentations were given by our invitees from these new members states on obesity prevalence and trends in their home countries. Contributions from Slovenia, Check Republic, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary were much appreciated, and will help us to create a more complete overview of prevalence across Europe.

The next Network of Networks meeting will be held preceding the 2009 ECO meeting, May 2009 in Amsterdam (see