Friday, June 25, 2010

Joint Programming Initiative “a healthy diet for a healthy life”

The importance of diet and health is now a key priority for most EU Member States seeking to deal with an increase in obesity and diet-related chronic diseases in their ageing populations. The increased prevalence of obesity, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged population groups, may be indicative of a worsening trend of poor diet (choice) and physical activity across the EU population. No doubt, the prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases will increase and in the long term, this may have a negative impact on life expectancy and reduce the quality of life and will lead to increased health costs. European governments are struggling with the growing social and economic consequences of the alarming increase in obesity and food-related diseases.
The food and nutrition research community in Europe develops knowledge to enable production of safe, varied and nutritious foods and dietary patterns. Research is undertaken in university faculties and research institutes, and in agro-food companies. While excellent research has been carried out throughout Europe, this has not always been transferred to relevant stakeholders, i.e. the public, health promotion institutes, retail, or industry in a way to maximally benefit from the results. There is, therefore, a true need to avoid duplication of research activities and improve communication in effective knowledge transfer among research communities, health promotion organisations and food sector.

Making advances in the food, nutrition and health research will require close interactions between physical and bio-medical sciences, and social sciences. Research in sectors across the food and health care chains will require support from funding sources both national and international, and from the European Commission. Close cooperation is needed to ensure resources are targeted effectively and efficiently to scientific challenges, without duplication of effort or leaving gaps that would reduce opportunities for innovation.
Europe is now working towards joint programming in the field of diet & health research. Today a group of scientist met at Schiphol airport to work on a vision document to further shape the joint programming initiative that will lead to more coordinated nutrition & health research across Europe and may also influence the European Commission 8th framework research priorities. Two main research areas were brought forward in two groups. One of diet and chronic disease, and one on determinants of dietary patterns, I chaired the second group consisting of public health nutrition experts from Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An analysis of the VU University Medical Center’s focus areas

The VU University Medical Center (VUmc) has five specific focus areas on which we wish to excel: Cancer and Immunology, ‘Vital Functions’ (i.e. mostly cardiovascular disease oriented), Neurosciences, Movement Sciences, and Extramural and ‘Trans’ mural health care (i.e. mostly focussed on public and occupational health, primary care, rehabilitation, and long-term care). The board of the VUmc has asked for an evaluation and future analysis of each of these focus areas. I chair the committee for the analysis of Extra and Trans Mural health care. Yesterday was the first committee meeting in which the analysis plan was discussed, as well as the timeline and the criteria. The committee consists of experts in primary care, elderly care, internal medicine, psychiatry, rehabilitation medicine, public and occupation health, oncology, diabetes care etc. The analysis is meant to help us realise our specific strengths within these broad focus areas in order to make further choices where and when necessary.

A Dutch admission system for health promotion interventions

Registration or recognition systems for best-practice health promotion interventions may contribute to better quality assurance and control in health promotion practice. In the Netherlands such a system has been developed and is being implemented aiming to provide policy makers and professionals with more information on the quality and effectiveness of available health promotion interventions and to promote use of good-practice and evidence-based interventions by health promotion organisations. The quality assessments are supervised by the Netherlands Organisation for Public Health and the Environment and the Netherlands Youth Institute and conducted by two sub-committees, one for interventions aimed at youth and one for adults. I chair the sub-committee for admission of interventions aimed at adults. These committees consist of experts in the fields of research, policy and practice. Four levels of recognition are distinguished inspired by the UK Medical Research Council’s evaluation framework for complex interventions to improve health: (I) theoretically sound; (II) probable effectiveness; (III) established effectiveness; (IV) established cost-effectiveness. Specific criteria have been set for each level of recognition, except for level 4 which will be included from 2011. Yesterday a meeting was held between representatives of the supervising organisations, the two sub-committee chairs, and representatives of the main stakeholders, i.e. the organisations responsible for the development and implementation of health promotion interventions in the Netherlands (such as the Netherlands Nutrition Center, the Netherlands Institute for Sport and Physical Activity, the national organisation for Municipal Health Services, and the Netherlands Institute for Homosexuality, Health and Wellbeing). This meeting was pasrt of a first evaluation of the admission system, i.e. to discuss the mutual experiences with the system and to explore further developments.