Vision and mission
Healthy Diet, Healthy Life.
A fundamental right for everyone.
Over 2 billion people in this world are overweight. The associated costs are 1.2 trillion dollar per year. At the same time, the population in many countries is ageing. This increases the incidence of malnutrition which leads to underweight and micro deficiencies. lf no action is taken, diet-related diseases are expected to increase rapidly in the next decade, stretching health systems to the breaking point.
The vision of HDHL is that by 2030 all citizens will have the motivation, ability and opportunity to consume a healthy diet from a variety of foods, have healthy levels of physical activity and that the incidence of diet-related diseases will have decreased significantly.
A programmed approach, with trans-disciplinary expertise, knowledge, facilities and approaches, ranging from basic research to large population studies and controlled trials, is needed to truly understand the relationship between diet, physical activity and health. Research should cover a wide range of topics, from the influence of (epi)genetic differences on disease susceptibility and morbidity, to the factors affecting health-related and environmentally-sustainable behaviours. Implementation should take place at the regional and country level, at the multilateral level through HDHL joint actions, and through the European Commission’s Research and Innovation framework programme 'Horizon Europe (HE)'.
Vision Paper can be downloaded here
Joint programming initiatives are country-driven and focus on the knowledge needed to tackle societal challenges that no country can solve alone. The research area that focuses on the links between nutrition and health as well as nutrition-related public health interventions, often falls into the gap between the agricultural and health domains. This leads to underinvestment, according to a recent mapping of the Research and Innovation investment of 11 countries by the Strategic Working Group on Food Systems of the Standing Committee of Agricultural Research. An analysis of existing policies and strategies, of more than 20 countries, mentioned in the same report, showed an underrepresentation of food innovation, nutrition and health in comparison to agriculture, food production and food safety. The same underinvestment is highlighted by the independent Food2030 expert group in relation to funding for the European Horizon 2020 research program. These, very recent, findings underline the importance of strengthening national research investments through a programmed approach.
The initiative ‘Healthy Diet, Healthy Life’ (HDHL), consists of 17 member countries within and outside Europe. Together, they are working on the integration of research in the areas of food, nutrition, health and physical activity, to help prevent or minimize lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Their governments are collaborating voluntarily to increase the impact of their research investment, minimise duplication of research effort within Europe, and to collectively enhance the insights needed to enable the transformation into a healthier, more sustainable society. We invite countries able to demonstrate their willingness to invest in research and innovation, via transnational collaboration, to join this initiative.
HDHL has the strategic goal to improve dietary quality in an environmentally-sustainable way. Based on insights and developments in food, nutrition and the social and health sciences, and to develop evidence-based recommendations and innovative formats for food products. Together with less physical activity and more sedentary behaviour this should have a major impact on public health, increas quality of life and prolong productive life, simultaneously reducing the environmental burden of diet. HDHL is developing its programmed approach by:
- Stimulating national alignment and inter-ministerial exchange on the national level through exchange between HDHL Member Countries; developing supporting materials to help put the topic of Research and Innovation in food, nutrition and health on the national agenda; and active participation in member-state driven initiatives at the European level.
- Supporting research excellence by funding regular transnational competitive calls for proposals, and for knowledge hubs and other networks in the three areas defined in its Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).
- Supporting development of the needed food, nutrition and health research infrastructure by investment to fill identified knowledge gaps. The aim is to move towards activities such as the standardisation of methodology and terminology in the different scientific disciplines involved.
- Investing in policy-science and stakeholder-science dialogues by capacity building, through networking events and by implementing these principles in our own procedures. For example, stakeholder involvement at the level of strategic programming, communications and defining criteria for calls for proposals.
During the past 12 years, former joint programming initiative HDHL has gained strong commitment from a large number of member countries, both in- and outside of Europe. There is a significantly advanced the coordination of research investments in key areas. HDHL has brought together more than 85 million euro, launching 21 joint actions. Through these joint actions, around 80 projects were funded up till now.
HDHL is a strong advocate of Open Science. The joint funding activity ENPADASI has developed elements that contribute to the needed research infrastructure in this area. HDHL has also run a pilot in a recent call, asking all applicants to submit a data management plan adhering to the Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Responsible (FAIR) data principles.
The first joint funding activity of HDHL was the knowledge hub on Determinants of Diets and Physical Activity (DEDIPAC), which brought together over 300 scientists from 13 countries. DEDIPAC published over 35 articles. In addition, they developed practical tools to assist in the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions and policies. HDHL followed up on one of DEDIPAC's key recommendations, to further invest in policy evaluation, by funding the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN). This network accessed the impact of policies on diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour. This shows that HDHL has the capacity to build on earlier research and is committed to making sure its research has practical use.
Looking towards the future, one of the main priorities is staying focused on the impact of our projects and the science-policy interface. Furthermore, with the current focus on the necessary transition of the food system, not only for our personal wellbeing but also for the sake of our environment, it has become clearer than ever to HDHL that healthy and sustainable food go hand in hand. HDHL aims to do her part in this transition, guided by the viewpoint that diet is perhaps the main leverage point to work towards a healthier and more sustainable food system.