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Transition to healthy and sustainable dietary behaviour


Changes in food production, processing and consumption patterns have contributed to diet-related health problems worldwide[[ Scientific Advice Mechanism, Group of Chief Scientific Advisors: Towards an EU Sustainable Food System, Scientific Opinion n°8 (March 2020). ]]. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, obesity, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes account for 71% of all deaths. NCDs are largely preventable through effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and the abuse of alcohol. According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, a shift from current diets to healthier diets is likely to benefit human health substantially, averting about 11 million deaths per year. Long-lasting, healthy and sustainable dietary behaviour needs to be given high priority from an early age, as good eating habits are usually formed in childhood.

The change of dietary behaviour is a complex challenge subject to manifold influences that should be better understood at individual and system levels, and through public engagement and inter-/trans-disciplinary approaches. The development of new approaches/strategies/tools requires a systemic approach involving all the main actors at different levels, who can ensure acceptance of and better adherence to healthy and sustainable dietary behaviour. These include governmental and public authorities, healthcare providers, education systems from schools to universities, (local) producers, the food industry, retailers, hospitality and food services, non‑governmental consumer and patient organisations, the general public, policymakers and the media.

Proposals should consider a range of geographical, socio-economic, behavioural and cultural factors and aim to produce innovative and effective strategies, tools and/or programmes promoting sustainable and healthy dietary behaviours and lifestyles to be used by policymakers, and monitoring approaches for measuring progress towards these goals if policymakers decide to implement such strategies, tools and/or programmes. The gender dimension (possible physical and behavioural differences) should also be investigated. Data collected and integrated by the private and public sectors should be broken down by gender and age.

Where relevant, activities should build and expand on the results of past and ongoing research projects, and input from national, EU and international competent bodies. Selected projects under this topic (and under the topic HORIZON-HLTH-2022-STAYHLTH-01-05-two-stage: Prevention of obesity throughout the life course) are strongly encouraged to participate in joint activities as appropriate, possibly in the form of project clustering, workshops, etc. Proposals are expected to demonstrate support for common coordination and dissemination activities. Applicants should plan the necessary budget to cover such activities.

Proposals are expected to address the following:

  • map and monitor dietary patterns at national/regional/rural/(sub)urban levels relevant to different genders, socio-economic and cultural groups, including the most vulnerable, to provide a snapshot of the situation across Europe;
  • identify, involve and analyse different population groups, in particular the most vulnerable, and the health and environment impact of their choices, in order potentially to enable them to benefit from the outcome of the project;
  • understand and measure the impacts of the factors and incentives influencing individual and collective dietary choice and behaviour across Europe;
  • improve our understanding of the barriers and enabling factors affecting food system actors’ efforts to improve food environments and to produce, process, promote and provide healthier and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable food products/processes/services to respond to citizens’ needs/demands;
  • for specific groups, develop innovative actions/approaches/interventions for different countries, region, urban and rural areas that policymakers could use to facilitate the transition towards healthy and sustainable dietary behaviour and lifestyle, and evaluate the effective impact if those would be implemented;
  • develop innovative and effective tools to improve education, communication, engagement and training on sustainable healthy nutrition and diets, and on sustainable food systems, adapted to different population groups in respect of cultures, needs and gender at different levels (e.g. public authorities, health care providers, education systems). The tools should be available to the responsible national authorities, to support their efforts on health promotion, disease prevention and care;
  • develop science-based tools for translating the scientific evidence base into easy-to-understand food-based dietary guidelines by national competent authorities that take account of local, seasonal, cultural, social, ethical, health and environmental factors and help consumers to make informed, responsible and easy choices;
  • fill knowledge gaps and update the scientific evidence base to provide support for national authorities developing dietary guidelines for specific population groups (using the basis provided by national, EU and international competent bodies);
  • provide recommendations for policymakers, underpinned by scientific evidence, to facilitate the transition towards healthy personalised management and sustainable dietary behaviour and lifestyle; and
  • provide evidence-based cost-benefit analysis of the proposed measure(s).

The multi-actor approach (see eligibility conditions) will be implemented by involving a wide range of food system actors and conducting inter-/trans-disciplinary research. Proposals should bring together multiple types of scientific expertise in health and natural sciences, and social sciences and humanities. This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.