Over 2 billion people in this world are overweight and the associated costs are 1.2 trillion dollar per year. At the same time, the population in many countries is ageing, which increases the incidence of malnutrition. This 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. In the JPI HDHL, 26 countries from within and outside of Europe are working on a programmed approach to align national R&I strategies and to fund new research, in order to facilitate true understanding of the relationship between diet, physical activity and health.
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
The vision of the JPI 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 JPI HDHL joint
actions, and through the European Commission’s Research and Innovation framework programme
(Currently this is H2020; it will be succeeded by Horizon Europe on January 1st 2021).
The Joint Programming Initiative ‘A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life’ (JPI
HDHL), consists of 26 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.
The JPI 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
changes in physical activity/sedentary behaviour this should have a major impact on public health,
increasing quality of life and prolonging productive life, simultaneously reducing the environmental
burden of diet.
The JPI HDHL is developing its programmed approach by:
- Stimulating national alignment and inter-ministerial exchange on the national level
through exchange between the JPI 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 ten years, JPI HDHL has gained strong commitment from a large number of member countries, both in- and outside of Europe. We have significantly advanced the coordination of research investments in key areas. JPI HDHL has brought together more than 85 million euro, launching 15 joint actions. Through these joint actions, no less than 50 projects were funded up till now. JPI 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. JPI HDHL has also run a pilot in a recent call, asking all applicants to submit a data management plan adhering to the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Responsible) data principles. The first joint funding activity of JPI HDHL was the knowledge hub on Determinants of Diets and Physical Activity (DEDIPAC), which brought together over 300 scientists from 13 countries. DEDIPAC resulted in over 35 publications as well as practical results, such as a toolbox to assist in the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions and policies. JPI HDHL followed up on one of DEDIPAC's key recommendations, to further invest in policy evaluation, by funding the Policy Evaluation Network. This network will assess the impact of policies on diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour. This shows that JPI 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 our 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 the JPI HDHL that healthy and sustainable food go hand in hand.
The JPI HDHL aims to do her part in this transition, guided by the viewpoint thot diet is perhaps the main leverage point to work towards a healthier and more sustainable food system.