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.

Adaptation of the Swiss Physical Activity Recommendations, Federal Office of Sport BASPO

Regular exercise and sport is an important element in maintaining and promoting health for all age and population groups. This is now widely recognized and scientifically substantiated. Switzerland has had physical activity recommendations for adults since 1999 and for children and adolescents since 2006.

In 2013, these two recommendations were revised based on the WHO recommendations and resived for the target group «older adults». In addition, there are now Swiss recommendations for infants and young children, as well as for pregnant and postpartum women.

In 2020, WHO provided an evidence-based update to its 2010 physical activity recommendations as part of the Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030 (GAPPA), while adding recommendations for managing sedentary lifestyles and recommendations for pregnant women, people with chronic conditions, and people with disabilities.

Based on this, the Swiss Physical Activity Recommendations as well as the basic document of the network «Gesundheitswirksame Bewegung. Grundlagendokument» will be revised. In addition to reviewing the scientific basis, this update will focus on consolidation with the professional societies based on the updated WHO recommendations.

The mandate is being implemented by Ecoplan as contractor in collaboration with a broad-based project team consisting of proven experts in the field of physical activity and health. PD Sonja Kahlmeier (FFHS) has already worked on the first global physical activity recommendations of the WHO and was co-leader in the revision of the Swiss physical activity recommendations and the basic document She also led the development of the physical activity recommendations for pregnant and postpartum women on behalf of Health Promotion Switzerland. In addition, she accompanied the development of the national recommendations of Germany and Austria as an expert.

Contact: Sonja Kahlmeier

Duration: June 2021 until March 2022


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


Urban health, green space and physical activity (GREEN-PA)

The importance of reducing physical inactivity for multiple benefits is increasingly recognized. Providing green spaces has health and other benefits particularly in youth, older people and socially disadvantaged groups, and is recognized as a promising approach to promoting PA in all population groups.

Physical activity (PA) has been identified as an important pathway of the green space and health relationship but open questions remain.

The GREEN-PA network responds to the clear need for trans- and interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration from the experts across disciplines and continents. It aims at 1) facilitating international networking of scientists, policymakers and practitioners; 2) promoting consensus building; 3) securing funding; fostering visibility and recognition.

Contact: Sonja Kahlmeier

Duration: ongoing, open ended

Archive of completed projects IFeL