The organisations and people behind the JPI HDHL Stakeholder Advisory Board: EFAD

To know more about JPI HDHL SHAB members, an interview with Anne de Looy, the representative of EFAD, has been carried out.

EFAD is the European Federation for the associations of dietitians and it is a member of the SHAB for pillar 3: Diet & Chronic Diseases. The President Anne de Looy has given an insight into the interest of EFAD in the JPI HDHL, potential area of collaboration and personal interest in participating in the activities of SHAB.

Dietitians are working all over Europe and they are committed to helping people change their diets and food intake, in order to improve the quality of their life. That may mean that the impact of a chronic condition is reduced or that they simply feel better for a longer, healthy life. Dietitians are qualified nutritionists, but they have also been educated in how to talk with and counsel people. And this is really important, because the only way to impact on a person’s food intake is to understand where that person is coming from and its economic and social conditions and to understand the science behind the advice that is given to it. EFAD’s aim is to support those professionals to do their very best with the population of Europe at all levels because “everybody knows about food, but not everybody knows about nutrition“.

The broad scope of JPI HDHL is what makes it so interesting to EFAD. Because if what comes out of this initiative and its research projects, is something that can improve and benefit a healthy life, dietitians need to know about that. Dietitians are always hungry for information which will benefit their client group. Not only do they want to help their clients to the best of their abilities, they want to be part of the research agenda too. Therefore, dietitians are disappointed that they don’t hear scientists saying “and we engaged dietitians to help us to put this diet together, to help us understand why this is important and to help us implement the modifications”. That is not to say that they are not involved, but they don’t hear about it.

In EFAD there are 34 National Dietetic Association members, representing over 35,000 dietitians in 27 European countries and 35 Education Associate Members, covering an additional two EU countries. They have newsletters, conferences, websites, Facebook, Twitter; so they are communicating all the time with their colleagues. They could feed information, even if it is only preliminary, to their colleagues who then can think about it, implement it or help find solutions. So it saddens Anne de Looy that dietitians don’t have this degree of partnership. JPI HDHL talks about translational research and dietitians are willing and able to help. For instance talking about connecting to all kinds of stakeholders, dietitians can be an important link between research and patients or the broader population because “it’s not until something awakens you, that you start hearing about it“.

Research and evidence based practice is the main EFAD driver to be a SHAB member for the third JPI HDHL pillar. Attending the SHAB meetings it is a way for Anne de Looy to keep EFAD dietitians updated about developments and people from various parts of the JPI have spoken at EFAD conferences.
JPI HDHL is doing a great job in funding research. But it could improve by asking “What is the application?”, “What are recommendations?”, “What is the impact?”. Anne de Looy can always appreciate the science, but she always thinks: “How is that going to benefit the health professional and, more importantly, the general public?”.

Looking at what can JPI HDHL do for EFAD some relevant questions should be taken into account.
‘Are the outcomes of JPI HDHL making a difference to the general population? What impact has HDHL had on changing the profile of health for the European community? Are we really serious about a HDHL, are we impacting on this? So the Anne de Looy’s key question is: who is going to look at the results of the JPI in 10 years time and say “that was a good thing to do”?

At the MaNuEL project mid-term seminar it was stated that diet counseling and supplements have the biggest impact on weight gain. There have been countless studies showing that one-to-one counseling works! Because people are unique and they need that kind of support. A bench study by Dutch dietitians wanted to know what the benefit was of having dietetic counseling. This report stated that one-to-one counseling with the husband, wife or child could lead to the whole family changing their dietary habits. So you mustn’t just look at the one-to-one but you must also look at the impact it has on the family. And it doesn’t necessarily stop there, it might have an influence at the workplace as well. More research is needed to prove that.

Anne de Looy is not only the EFAD’s President, but she also was the first professor of dietetics in the UK, and probably in Europe. That was really important for the profession.

Being a SHAB member, she gets to know about the most up-to-date science that is going on. And generally, she finds it very important that JPI can give her information, but that she can give information as well. For her being a SHAB member means listening on both sides.

What does a healthy diet for a healthy life mean to Anne de Looy? A healthy diet, healthy life is almost undefinable. Based on the sheer diversity of people and the culture we live in, it means that what constitutes health and a healthy diet is very complex. So it’s an enormous challenge but she thinks that a healthy diet for a healthy life more or less means: you look at each individual and you essentially say: “how can I help you?”

“At the end of the day, you can have as many policies as you like about healthy diet - healthy life, you have to interact with people for it to be meaningful.”

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