Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Voor Dik en Dun ('For thick and thin'): Health Council of the Netherlands report on obesity prevention and eating disorders

Many interventions and initiatives are being undertaken, also on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, to contribute to the prevention of overweight and obesity in the Netherlands. These government initiated or supported interventions are mainly aiming to promote healthier eating and  physical activity behaviors. In the context of these prevention and health promotion projects, the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport has asked the Health Council of the Netherlands to advise on whether this increased attention that is being paid to overweight and obesity in the public arena may be a risk factor for the development of eating disorders. In the advice, that was published today, a specially appointed Committee, chaired by Professor Inez de Beaufort, and I had the pleasure to be a committee member, concludes that only very limited research has been conducted on this specific topic, but what is known to date suggests that the present day official campaigns and interventions for prevention of overweight are unlikely to cause eating disorders. Therefore, the committee concludes that there is no need to modify the current prevention policy focusing on a healthy diet and sufficient physical activity.
Different articles were published in Dutch news papers today on the publication of this report, for example in 'De Telegraaf', and on 'Nu.NL'. Interestingly, these media put most emphasis on the fact that campaigns may have negative side effects related to eating disorders instead of on the main conclusions described above.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The FoBoNet network for PhD students from the Nordic countries interested in food and nutrition

The FoBoNet seminar series is a podium for PhD students and their advisors from the Nordic countries with an interest in Nutrition research, especially from a social sciences perspective. Dr. Gun Roos, from the National Institute for Consumer Research in Oslo, Norway, is the actual coordinator, and takes care of this series in close collaboration with her sister Dr. Eva Roos from Folkhälsean Research Center, Helsinki, Finland, from.., Professor Margareta Wandel, from the University of Oslo and Professor Lotte Holm from Kopenhagen University. This year the event took place from August 23-25 in Tuusula, near Helsinki, Finland. I was invited to give a keynote lecture. A pdf handout of the presentation can be accessed here.
It is a three day event, but I could unfortunately only be there for the first and part of the second day. Gun Roos did the introductions at the start of the seminar. Then the actual program started with two ‘keynote lectures’. The larger part of the rest of the program was what the network is really about: PhD students presenting part of their work.
Professor Dale Southerton, director of the Sustainable Practices Research Group at Manchester University gave the first keynote in which he presented a theory on determinants of food choice and habits. He posited that we should take a much more practice-based approach, i.e. looking at what people actually do, instead of a more attitude/motivational (i.e. in line with for example the Theory of Planned Behavior)-based approach.

I provided a keynote on environmental influences on behavioral nutrition and physical activity. Both Professor Southerton and myself build a case for the importance of contextual factors, i.e. the physical, social cultural, political and economical environments in explaining food habits.

On the Tuesday morning Carola Ray from the Folkhälsan Research Center in Finland, Kristiina Kainulainen of the University of Helsinki, Hillevi Preli and Stina Olafsdottir, both from the University of Gothenburg presented their work all related to determinants of food and health among children. Eva Roos of the Folkhälsan Center chaired the session. Presentations covered school-based intervention studies to promote healthier lifestyles, social, cultural and personal factors related to easting habits, an analysis of food TV adds in Sweden, and the relation between watching TV and intake of sugar-sweetened drinks among youngsters.

Today I provided a lecture at the FoBoNet network meeting. The FoBoNet seminar series is a podium for PhD students and their advisors from the Nordic countries with an interest in Nutrition research, especially from a social sciences perspective. I talked about personal and environmental determinants of behavioral nutrition & physical activity.