Projects Health

In terms of content, research is currently devoted specifically to the topic of nutrition, for which the first field of research was established in 2019.

Determinants of Physical ActivitieS in Settings (DE-PASS)

The COST Action «Determinants of Physical ActivitieS in Settings» (DE-PASS) will focus on identifying, understanding and measuring the determinants which promote, maintain or inhibit Physical Activity Behaviours (PABs) across the lifespan and in different settings. It will translate this knowledge to assist policy-makers to achieve greater health impact.

Large parts of European and global populations are insufficiently physically active. The health, economic and social benefits of a more active society are enormous. DEPASS will illuminate why individuals and/or societies adopt a physically active or inactive lifestyle. To date enormous energy has been invested by researchers in answering this question, however, the knowledge gained and the impact achieved through this investment is fragmented, not readily translatable and rarely transcends the state of the art.

DE-PASS will achieve the following:

  1. use a settings approach (home, school, work etc.) to bridge the knowledge and translation gap
  2. enact a multi-disciplinary, Pan-European, international network of established, young and Early Career Investigators (ECIs) and policymakers
  3. exploit, consolidate and further integrate existing relevant expertise, evidence, resources and influence
  4. develop capacities and careers for ECIs
  5.  provide a new European PABs conceptual framework, a best evidence statement and implementation guidelines for policy-makers
  6. define and standardise European measurement protocols
  7. establish a new, high functioning, open access European database of determinants of PABs with a cohort extension and 
  8. define an evidenced-based and aspirational Pan-European research harmonisation and implementation strategy.

Contact: Sonja Kahlmeier

Duration: 2020 – 2024

Measurement and optimization of iron bioavailability in sustainably produced insect based foods: estimation of the nutritional potential as alternative dietary iron sources in human subjects (Sust-iron-able)

There is a need to develop viable ecological and nutritional alternatives to animal food products, such as meat and fish, in the face of the growing world population.

However, in many societies, animal products (muscle tissue) are key sources of well-absorbed iron, while iron deficiency is prevalent in both high and low-income countries. In collaboration with the Laboratory of Human Nutrition of the ETH Zürich and Zurich University of Applied Science (ZHAW), this project aims at investigating iron absorption from different insect species and at developing an insect-based food which can provide a substantial amount of dietary iron in human subjects. The project is funded by the World Food System Center of ETH Zürich, Coop Research Program.

Contact: Diego Moretti

Duration: April 2019 – March 2021

Optimizing oral iron supplementation regimens during pregnancy: maximizing absorption and minimizing GI side effects

Oral iron supplementation is the mainstay of therapy for iron deficiency.

However, bioavailability of iron supplements is generally low, resulting in high doses being administered, increasing the risk for gastrointestinal (GI) side effects and, consequently, ineffective therapies. Alternate day regimens (i.e. administering one supplement every second day) result in higher fractional absorption in young non-pregnant women in short term and medium term studies. We aim to investigate and optimise iron supplementation in pregnant women, and to assess side effects of alternate day regimens with a novel App which will be developed in collaboration with the FFHS Laboratory for Web Science (LWS). The new tool will then be deployed in a RCT in pregnant women conducted in collaboration with the Laboratory of Human Nutrition of ETH Zürich and the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University in Thailand.

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Contact: Diego Moretti

Duration: April 2019 – March 2022

WHO Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) for walking and cycling

The Health Economic Assessment Tool (HEAT) is an online tool designed for transport planners that allows the economic assessment of health benefits of walking or cycling.  

The first version of the HEAT was launched in 2007. The current version 4.0, launched in October 2017, now also allows taking into account the effects of air pollution, injuries and carbon emissions.

The HEAT is one of the most used tools for health economic assessments of walking or cycling projects. In 2015, a study found over 40’000 site visits, 14 government reports and 28 academic papers using the HEAT.

This open ended, ongoing project is led by the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Sonja Kahlmeier acts as project coordinator in association with an international team of collaborators.

Contact: Sonja Kahlmeier


Policy Evaluation Network (PEN)

The Policy Evaluation Network (PEN) was created as part of the European Joint Programming Initiative on a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL) with the vision to provide Europe with tools to identify, evaluate and benchmark policies designed to address physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and sedentary behaviour.

28 research institutes from seven European countries and New Zealand have combined their expertise to form the PEN Network.

PEN will examine the content, implementation and impact of lifestyle policies across Europe and will build on existing knowledge from DEDIPAC (Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity) and the INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/ non-communicable diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support) framework. With seven inter-related work packages, PEN will provide an overview of the ‘best’ public policies most likely to sustainably reduce physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and sedentary behavior.

PEN will realize the first steps in a policy monitoring and surveillance system for Europe and refine our knowledge of appropriate research designs and methods for the quantification of policy impact. It will contribute to our understanding of how to achieve successful transnational policy implementation of policies in different cultural, demographic or socio-economic settings with particular focus on vulnerable groups.

Contact: Sonja Kahlmeier

Duration: February 2019 – January 2021