CORDIS - EU research results

Physical Activity & Nutrition: Advancing Measurement & Impact Assessment

Final Report Summary - PANAMA (Physical Activity & Nutrition: Advancing Measurement & Impact Assessment)

The PANAMA (Physical Activity and Nutrition: Advancing Measurement and impact Assessment) project was a staff exchange scheme between the University of Oxford, Dublin City University (DCU), the University of Auckland and Deakin University, Melbourne that ran between January 2012 and December 2015. The key objective of the PANAMA project was to strengthen research links between European researchers and researchers in Australia and New Zealand in order to grow expertise and capacity in nutrition and physical activity research. This was achieved by (a) exploiting, developing and validating new diet and activity measurement technologies; (b) using simulation models to quantify the impact of promising interventions on population health; and (c) integrating findings from a variety of sources to create a portfolio of cost-effective policy and practice-relevant interventions.

The exchange programme objectives were to benefit the EU through:
1. Establishment of robust, long-term international cooperation in the field of nutrition and physical activity through enhancement and extension of existing networks;
2. Establishment of a hub of research excellence to enable international research through which emerging researchers and PhD students will benefit such that long-term future cooperation will be assured;
3. Sharing of expertise, data systems, research methods and staff via joint projects to identify and develop more reliable tools with which to measure physical activity and diet behaviours, their determinants, and the impact of behaviour change on health.

The scientific activities that were facilitated by the academic exchanges fell into three work packages that operated in parallel to address the overall objectives.
1. The objective of Work Package 1 (WP1) was to develop new methodological approaches to record dietary intake, physical activity and sedentary behaviour and determinants of these behaviours without any conscious action from users. One example of such tools is a small, specialised device worn around the neck (SenseCam) to capture photos and record motion data automatically.
2. The objective of Work Package 2 (WP2) was to apply scenario modelling techniques to quantify the impact of fiscal and other dietary interventions on population nutrition and health in Europe and ANZ. This package of work provided opportunities to extend existing models that aim to assess the impact of interventions on health and to apply such models to different populations.
3. The objective of Work Package 3 (WP3) was to adapt the Australian Assessing Cost Effectiveness (ACE) methodology for comparing the cost-effectiveness of public health interventions for the UK and Irish populations.

Over the four years of the PANAMA project, the research links between the four contributing institutions were enhanced dramatically, resulting in joint funding applications, peer-reviewed journal articles, conference presentations and symposia. The exchange programme provided opportunities for vital staff training and development. The collaborations built by the PANAMA project will continue to bear fruit long after the end date for the project.

A total of 43 research exchanges were conducted over the four years. These exchanges took place over a total of over 57 researcher-months. The average length of an exchange was 40 days, allowing for the exchanging researchers to have time to embed in the visited institutions. This was crucial to the success of the PANAMA project – allowing for deep connections to be formed between the institutions that persist and continue to develop. Examples of important collaborations that have been developed as a result of the PANAMA project include a collaboration between Oxford University and Auckland University to jointly supervise a PhD student at Oxford, based on a project that was piloted during an exchange in Auckland, and an ongoing collaboration between non-communicable disease scenario modelling teams in Auckland, Deakin and Oxford to develop reporting standards for the field and develop a model intercomparison project.

The PANAMA project has contributed to 14 articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals (with many more in preparation, submitted or under review), 10 applications for funding from health-related charities or research councils, and 24 conference attendances (many presenting work that has been aided by the PANAMA project). It has led to the development of important new techniques for measuring diet and physical activity passively and objectively, estimation of the potential health impact of population-level approaches to improve diet and physical activity in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, and a funding application to the British Heart Foundation to develop an ACE-style cost effectiveness modelling programme in the UK.