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One year after the launching of the EPODE European Network

photo_1Jean-Michel BORYS, EPODE and EEN director, retraces the first year of the implementation of the EPODE European Network project.

It has been more than one year since the EPODE European Network (EEN) has been launched, as a project co-funded by the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission and several private partners. The objective of the EEN is to facilitate the implementation of EPODE-similar community-based interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity in other European countries and regions. Over the last few months, much interest was raised throughout Europe and the discussions in progress in the EEN working groups, led by major European universities, provide an interesting insight for the enrichment of the EPODE methodology and its dissemination.

International and European recommendations highlight the need for large-scale and sustainable community based initiatives (CBIs) to tackle the growing prevalence of childhood obesity throughout Europe. in this context, the EPODE methodology, aimed at preventing childhood obesity and promoting healthier lifestyles at local level, has been recognized as an effective tool. The 4 pillars of the EPODE methodology are currently being reviewed and studied by 4 working groups chaired by research groups from the 4 EEN associated European Universities. Each research group works on documenting and enriching the pillars of this methodology which are: a strong political support at national and local level, an independent scientific expertise, the use of various methods and social marketing techniques, a multistakeholder approach (associating both public and private partners).

Over the last few months, the EPODE European Network enabled to engage strong dynamics, in terms of discussion with experts and professionals from many different backgrounds and in terms of mobilization of various stakeholders interested in deploying an EPODE-similar approach in their region and country.

Over 75 different participants from about 50 different organizations and 15 different countries have attended the different meetings of the working groups. A broad range of point of views and concerns have been collected about the needs to consider developing and implementing an EPODE similar initiative.. The 4 research groups from the involved universities collected a vast amount of information from European EPODE and non-EPODE actors, in order to understand and document the critical components of the EPODE methodology and provide guidance from key practices. The first reports and publications are in progress and the major forthcoming event to share these preliminary results will be the EPODE European Network symposium to be held in Brussels on 3 December 2009 (for more information, click here).

On the other hand, all EEN partners who contributed to raise awareness about the interest of local, long term have initiated mobilization. Several teams from various fields of activities (Institutions, governmental agencies, researchers, NGOs, private companies,...) showed an interest in encouraging the development of EPODE-similar approaches in their own country or region.

Besides several participation to European congresses and conferences in 2009, including a contribution to the European Congress on Obesity Prevention Satellite held in May in Amsterdam, the EPODE European Network will continue, as a "think and do" tank, to provide guidance and disseminate preliminary results through publications and interventions in 2010.