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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

Public policy: Platform for action

The EU’s Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity encourages key stakeholders to set up initiatives to improve the health of the population across Europe. EuropeActive’s Cliff Collins reports on a couple of successful projects

By Cliff Collins, EHFA | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 4
The EU’s Platform for Diet / shutterstock.com/Jacek Chabraszewski
The EU’s Platform for Diet / shutterstock.com/Jacek Chabraszewski

How should we go about addressing inactivity and obesity across Europe? It’s a challenge facing us all at an individual and a societal level, and one that health clubs across the continent strive to address on a daily basis. It’s also a challenge the European Union (EU) is attempting to confront head-on.

Since 2007, there’s been an EU strategy on nutrition, health and physical activity to help fight obesity and the chronic diseases that obesity is linked to. However, the EU has acknowledged that this problem can’t be tackled with a single-pronged approach, but rather with a co-ordinated, holistic approach aimed at specific objectives: promoting healthy eating, promoting awareness of obesity-related health issues, reformulating food to make it healthier, creating opportunities for exercise, providing the right environment so physical activity becomes part of people’s lives, involving schools and local communities, and so on.

It therefore set up the EU Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity – an action-orientated, co-operative kind of ‘club’ that meets four times a year and that brings stakeholders from across the food and drink, medical and health, and physical activity sectors together with other interest group representatives. Encompassing everything from industry bodies and health NGOs to consumer groups, its aim is to help reverse the trend towards obesity and inactivity.

Welcome to the club
A majority of the Platform members are from, or have a direct interest in, the food and drink industry – including powerful groupings of strategists and lobbyists. Big hitters such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Danone are represented through a number of European associations. However, EuropeActive (formerly EHFA) has also been a member of the Platform since the early days, representing a minority of associations that are promoting health-enhancing physical activity.

The EU Platform is the responsibility of DG Health and Consumers (Sanco) of the EU Commission, which also chairs the meetings. Typically at each meeting there will be around 60 delegates, and twice yearly there are high-level meetings that include government representatives from EU Member States. At these times, the director general and/or commissioner will attend to give updates on progress and priorities.

It’s an important forum for the exchange of information and debates related to several policy areas, such as the provision of information to consumers at the point of sale, guidelines on daily amounts (GDA) labelling, the role of physical activity in reducing obesity, marketing to children, and reformulation of food and drink products to reduce sugar, salt and fat.

Platform Members pledge actions they will take to contribute to the overall Platform aim – namely reversing the obesity trend. There are six fields: marketing and advertising; composition of foods (reformulation), availability of healthy food options, portion sizes; consumer information, like labelling; education including lifestyle modification; physical activity promotion; and advocacy and information exchange.

The EU Commission has made several recommendations and directives off the back of Platform outcomes. These relate to the increasing regulation of advertising standards for food and drink, looking at reducing fat and sugar content of food, and reviewing food labelling requirements. It’s also progressing with a specific strategy on childhood obesity. Here we review two member projects.

FOOD & DRINK GETS ACTIVE

Organisation: FoodDrinkEurope

FoodDrinkEurope represents the European food and drink sector, the largest sector in the EU in terms of turnover and employment. Its membership consists of 25 national federations, 25 European sector associations and 17 major food and drink companies.

As a founding member of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, FoodDrinkEurope strongly supports a multi-sector, multi-faceted approach to tackling obesity in Europe. It is a major contributor of concrete commitments to the EU Platform in areas such as product reformulation, consumer information and responsible advertising to children. In addition, many FoodDrinkEurope members are involved in initiatives promoting healthy and active lifestyles, in the belief that diet and lifestyle cannot be seen separately from one another.

One example of such a commitment is the Bielice Run programme by Mars. This started in 1994 as a simple programme promoting physical activity among children from the Sochaczew city area of Poland. Today, it’s the biggest sporting event for children in Poland. In 2014, 2,400 pupils from 98 schools and 12 organisations for children with special care needs took part in 22 cross-country distance runs, with all runs tailored to participants’ ages and conforming to all requirements of the Polish Athletic Association.

The focus of the Bielice programme is particularly on educating and motivating disabled children to engage in physical activities as much as their abilities allow them, and at the same time helping build a sporting spirit among children.

Another example is the EPODE European Network (EEN) programme, a community intervention plan that mobilises key players in local communities – teachers, healthcare professionals, sports teachers, shopkeepers, local companies and so on – to stimulate families to adapt their lifestyles to a less obesogenic environment. Examples of initiatives include building public playgrounds in primary schools and organising walks.

The programme itself is run by local public authorities, while the private partners facilitate co-funding. Among others, food companies Nestlé, Ferrero and Mars are participating in this multi-stakeholder project which began in France and, following its success, has been expanded to the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Belgium and Romania. This approach has resulted in significant reductions in childhood overweight and obesity – for example, more than a 20 per cent decrease in two pilot towns in Belgium in one school year.

Besides physical activity promotion in external communities, a number of food companies have put ‘health in the workplace’ programmes in place inside their own organisations to enhance employee wellbeing. For example, Unilever has a global employee health programme called Lamplighter, which addresses the top three health risks it has identified across its business: mental health; lifestyle factors (exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity), and ergonomic factors (such as repetitive strain injury). The change in the risk factors is monitored over a period of time, looking at measures such as hypertension, cholesterol, obesity, nutrition, exercise and mental wellbeing.

The FoodDrinkEurope Secretariat also has a healthy workplace plan which includes exercise (including annual sport days), encouraging employees to drink water, and providing nutrition advice.
“Promoting more active lifestyles is a fundamental part of the fight against obesity and non-communicable diseases,” says Dirk Jacobs, director of consumer information, diet and health at FoodDrinkEurope. “Partnerships are crucial to make the necessary impact and all actors have a role to play.”

FoodDrinkEurope has a healthy workplace plan that includes nutrition advice / shutterstock.com/Lucky Business
FoodDrinkEurope has a healthy workplace plan that includes nutrition advice / shutterstock.com/Lucky Business
The Bielice Run programme from Mars helps to get disabled children more active
The Bielice Run programme from Mars helps to get disabled children more active

HEALTHY, ACTIVE AGEING

Organisation: EuropeActive

Europe faces serious demographic challenges. Each year, average life expectancy across the continent increases by three months; the number of people aged 65+ will double over the next 50 years, putting enormous pressure on our healthcare and social security systems.

Despite strong evidence showing that investment in promoting the importance of regular physical activity can result in higher quality of life and better health – including in old age – EU Member States spend on average less than 3 per cent of their annual health budgets on prevention and health promotion.

EuropeActive has been successful in its bid for EU funding for a project that aims to promote health-enhancing physical activity among older adults through supervised exercise programmes, thereby helping older generations to remain independent and maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible. The plan – EuropeActive’s current commitment to the Platform – aims to encourage longer-term take-up of activities among older people, as well as providing outcomes and learnings that can be applied by policy-makers and practitioners at a local, national or indeed European level.

The PAHA (Promoting Physical Activity in Health and Ageing) project is a tailored intervention for older adults with different functional capacities. Through a supervised and structured exercise programme for senior citizens aged 55–65 years, PAHA intends to convert currently inactive people into regular exercisers at a level that’s beneficial to their health, supporting the EU guidelines on physical activity and tying in with the European Week of Sport in September 2015, which will have a strong active ageing element.

In each of the eight project partner countries – Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom – three fitness centres will run three trial sessions of supervised exercise of six weeks’ duration, with 15 participants in each session. For that purpose, the fitness coaches, instructors and other community workers involved in the project will receive specific training in both motivational skills and active ageing.

Through a comprehensive evaluation system, the PAHA project will develop standards that will be made available for sports and activity organisations across Europe. The aim is to create a methodology that can easily be adapted and replicated in different settings, allowing a larger number of mature citizens to take up regular exercise and health-enhancing physical activities.

The outcome of the project will be presented to the Platform in late 2016 as an example of an effective intervention for physical activity promotion. Details: www.health-club.co.uk/paha

EuropeActive aims to create a replicable model that will encourage more mature people to be active / photo: shutterstock.com/Ammentorp Photography
EuropeActive aims to create a replicable model that will encourage more mature people to be active / photo: shutterstock.com/Ammentorp Photography
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Figure 1 Top 20 operators by members
Figure 1 Top 20 operators by members
HealthCity International has continued to rebrand and reposition many of its HealthCity clubs into low-cost BasicFit facilities
HealthCity International has continued to rebrand and reposition many of its HealthCity clubs into low-cost BasicFit facilities
Figure 2 Development of fitness transactions in Europe
Figure 2 Development of fitness transactions in Europe
Fresh Fitness Denmark was bought by market leader Fitness World
Fresh Fitness Denmark was bought by market leader Fitness World
Figure 3 Top 20 operators by home market
Figure 3 Top 20 operators by home market
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/419131_394362.jpg
The EU’s Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity encourages key stakeholders to set up health-improving initiatives across Europe. We look at some recent projects
Cliff Collins,EU, Platform, Platform for Diet Health and Physical Activity, Cliff Collins, EuropeActive, FoodDrinkEurope, Dirk Jacobs, Bielice, active ageing
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features

Public policy: Platform for action

The EU’s Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity encourages key stakeholders to set up initiatives to improve the health of the population across Europe. EuropeActive’s Cliff Collins reports on a couple of successful projects

By Cliff Collins, EHFA | Published in Health Club Management 2015 issue 4
The EU’s Platform for Diet / shutterstock.com/Jacek Chabraszewski
The EU’s Platform for Diet / shutterstock.com/Jacek Chabraszewski

How should we go about addressing inactivity and obesity across Europe? It’s a challenge facing us all at an individual and a societal level, and one that health clubs across the continent strive to address on a daily basis. It’s also a challenge the European Union (EU) is attempting to confront head-on.

Since 2007, there’s been an EU strategy on nutrition, health and physical activity to help fight obesity and the chronic diseases that obesity is linked to. However, the EU has acknowledged that this problem can’t be tackled with a single-pronged approach, but rather with a co-ordinated, holistic approach aimed at specific objectives: promoting healthy eating, promoting awareness of obesity-related health issues, reformulating food to make it healthier, creating opportunities for exercise, providing the right environment so physical activity becomes part of people’s lives, involving schools and local communities, and so on.

It therefore set up the EU Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity – an action-orientated, co-operative kind of ‘club’ that meets four times a year and that brings stakeholders from across the food and drink, medical and health, and physical activity sectors together with other interest group representatives. Encompassing everything from industry bodies and health NGOs to consumer groups, its aim is to help reverse the trend towards obesity and inactivity.

Welcome to the club
A majority of the Platform members are from, or have a direct interest in, the food and drink industry – including powerful groupings of strategists and lobbyists. Big hitters such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Danone are represented through a number of European associations. However, EuropeActive (formerly EHFA) has also been a member of the Platform since the early days, representing a minority of associations that are promoting health-enhancing physical activity.

The EU Platform is the responsibility of DG Health and Consumers (Sanco) of the EU Commission, which also chairs the meetings. Typically at each meeting there will be around 60 delegates, and twice yearly there are high-level meetings that include government representatives from EU Member States. At these times, the director general and/or commissioner will attend to give updates on progress and priorities.

It’s an important forum for the exchange of information and debates related to several policy areas, such as the provision of information to consumers at the point of sale, guidelines on daily amounts (GDA) labelling, the role of physical activity in reducing obesity, marketing to children, and reformulation of food and drink products to reduce sugar, salt and fat.

Platform Members pledge actions they will take to contribute to the overall Platform aim – namely reversing the obesity trend. There are six fields: marketing and advertising; composition of foods (reformulation), availability of healthy food options, portion sizes; consumer information, like labelling; education including lifestyle modification; physical activity promotion; and advocacy and information exchange.

The EU Commission has made several recommendations and directives off the back of Platform outcomes. These relate to the increasing regulation of advertising standards for food and drink, looking at reducing fat and sugar content of food, and reviewing food labelling requirements. It’s also progressing with a specific strategy on childhood obesity. Here we review two member projects.

FOOD & DRINK GETS ACTIVE

Organisation: FoodDrinkEurope

FoodDrinkEurope represents the European food and drink sector, the largest sector in the EU in terms of turnover and employment. Its membership consists of 25 national federations, 25 European sector associations and 17 major food and drink companies.

As a founding member of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, FoodDrinkEurope strongly supports a multi-sector, multi-faceted approach to tackling obesity in Europe. It is a major contributor of concrete commitments to the EU Platform in areas such as product reformulation, consumer information and responsible advertising to children. In addition, many FoodDrinkEurope members are involved in initiatives promoting healthy and active lifestyles, in the belief that diet and lifestyle cannot be seen separately from one another.

One example of such a commitment is the Bielice Run programme by Mars. This started in 1994 as a simple programme promoting physical activity among children from the Sochaczew city area of Poland. Today, it’s the biggest sporting event for children in Poland. In 2014, 2,400 pupils from 98 schools and 12 organisations for children with special care needs took part in 22 cross-country distance runs, with all runs tailored to participants’ ages and conforming to all requirements of the Polish Athletic Association.

The focus of the Bielice programme is particularly on educating and motivating disabled children to engage in physical activities as much as their abilities allow them, and at the same time helping build a sporting spirit among children.

Another example is the EPODE European Network (EEN) programme, a community intervention plan that mobilises key players in local communities – teachers, healthcare professionals, sports teachers, shopkeepers, local companies and so on – to stimulate families to adapt their lifestyles to a less obesogenic environment. Examples of initiatives include building public playgrounds in primary schools and organising walks.

The programme itself is run by local public authorities, while the private partners facilitate co-funding. Among others, food companies Nestlé, Ferrero and Mars are participating in this multi-stakeholder project which began in France and, following its success, has been expanded to the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Belgium and Romania. This approach has resulted in significant reductions in childhood overweight and obesity – for example, more than a 20 per cent decrease in two pilot towns in Belgium in one school year.

Besides physical activity promotion in external communities, a number of food companies have put ‘health in the workplace’ programmes in place inside their own organisations to enhance employee wellbeing. For example, Unilever has a global employee health programme called Lamplighter, which addresses the top three health risks it has identified across its business: mental health; lifestyle factors (exercise, nutrition, smoking, obesity), and ergonomic factors (such as repetitive strain injury). The change in the risk factors is monitored over a period of time, looking at measures such as hypertension, cholesterol, obesity, nutrition, exercise and mental wellbeing.

The FoodDrinkEurope Secretariat also has a healthy workplace plan which includes exercise (including annual sport days), encouraging employees to drink water, and providing nutrition advice.
“Promoting more active lifestyles is a fundamental part of the fight against obesity and non-communicable diseases,” says Dirk Jacobs, director of consumer information, diet and health at FoodDrinkEurope. “Partnerships are crucial to make the necessary impact and all actors have a role to play.”

FoodDrinkEurope has a healthy workplace plan that includes nutrition advice / shutterstock.com/Lucky Business
FoodDrinkEurope has a healthy workplace plan that includes nutrition advice / shutterstock.com/Lucky Business
The Bielice Run programme from Mars helps to get disabled children more active
The Bielice Run programme from Mars helps to get disabled children more active

HEALTHY, ACTIVE AGEING

Organisation: EuropeActive

Europe faces serious demographic challenges. Each year, average life expectancy across the continent increases by three months; the number of people aged 65+ will double over the next 50 years, putting enormous pressure on our healthcare and social security systems.

Despite strong evidence showing that investment in promoting the importance of regular physical activity can result in higher quality of life and better health – including in old age – EU Member States spend on average less than 3 per cent of their annual health budgets on prevention and health promotion.

EuropeActive has been successful in its bid for EU funding for a project that aims to promote health-enhancing physical activity among older adults through supervised exercise programmes, thereby helping older generations to remain independent and maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible. The plan – EuropeActive’s current commitment to the Platform – aims to encourage longer-term take-up of activities among older people, as well as providing outcomes and learnings that can be applied by policy-makers and practitioners at a local, national or indeed European level.

The PAHA (Promoting Physical Activity in Health and Ageing) project is a tailored intervention for older adults with different functional capacities. Through a supervised and structured exercise programme for senior citizens aged 55–65 years, PAHA intends to convert currently inactive people into regular exercisers at a level that’s beneficial to their health, supporting the EU guidelines on physical activity and tying in with the European Week of Sport in September 2015, which will have a strong active ageing element.

In each of the eight project partner countries – Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom – three fitness centres will run three trial sessions of supervised exercise of six weeks’ duration, with 15 participants in each session. For that purpose, the fitness coaches, instructors and other community workers involved in the project will receive specific training in both motivational skills and active ageing.

Through a comprehensive evaluation system, the PAHA project will develop standards that will be made available for sports and activity organisations across Europe. The aim is to create a methodology that can easily be adapted and replicated in different settings, allowing a larger number of mature citizens to take up regular exercise and health-enhancing physical activities.

The outcome of the project will be presented to the Platform in late 2016 as an example of an effective intervention for physical activity promotion. Details: www.health-club.co.uk/paha

EuropeActive aims to create a replicable model that will encourage more mature people to be active / photo: shutterstock.com/Ammentorp Photography
EuropeActive aims to create a replicable model that will encourage more mature people to be active / photo: shutterstock.com/Ammentorp Photography
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Figure 1 Top 20 operators by members
Figure 1 Top 20 operators by members
HealthCity International has continued to rebrand and reposition many of its HealthCity clubs into low-cost BasicFit facilities
HealthCity International has continued to rebrand and reposition many of its HealthCity clubs into low-cost BasicFit facilities
Figure 2 Development of fitness transactions in Europe
Figure 2 Development of fitness transactions in Europe
Fresh Fitness Denmark was bought by market leader Fitness World
Fresh Fitness Denmark was bought by market leader Fitness World
Figure 3 Top 20 operators by home market
Figure 3 Top 20 operators by home market
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/419131_394362.jpg
The EU’s Platform for Diet, Health and Physical Activity encourages key stakeholders to set up health-improving initiatives across Europe. We look at some recent projects
Cliff Collins,EU, Platform, Platform for Diet Health and Physical Activity, Cliff Collins, EuropeActive, FoodDrinkEurope, Dirk Jacobs, Bielice, active ageing
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