Over the next four years, twenty partners from seven European member states will identify and overcome barriers in implementing effective strategies against childhood obesity. The aim is to upscale primary interventions for weight control management in children and adolescents to ultimately prevent and reduce cancer incidence in the population.

The PREVENT project – Improving and upscaling primary prevention of cancer by addressing childhood obesity through implementation research is funded by the European Commission through the Horizon Europe programme, more particularly, PREVENT addresses one of the five missions of Horizon Europe, the cancer one. The EU Cancer Mission aims to improve the lives of more than 3 million people by 2030 through prevention, cure and for those affected by cancer including their families, to live longer and better. It will provide a better understanding of cancer, allow for earlier diagnosis and optimisation of treatment and improve cancer patients’ quality of life during and beyond their cancer treatment.

PREVENT held its kick-off meeting in Athens, Greece on 3-4 July 2023 where the consortium of twenty partners from seven EU countries met, led by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece (NKUA).
The initiative aims to identify and overcome barriers in the implementation of effective strategies/policies/ plans against childhood obesity, with the ultimate goal of reducing cancer risks in adulthood. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in Europe, as one in three children aged 6 -9 is overweight or obese. It is closely connected with a series of severe consequences for children’s and adolescents’ health and a higher risk of developing cancer in adulthood. Epidemiological studies have connected childhood obesity with an increased occurrence of gastrointestinal and kidney cancers in men and uterus, ovarian, and gastrointestinal cancers among women.
PREVENT will create and implement three Living Labs (LLs) in Greece, Sweden, and Spain to reach approximately 6,000 individuals, and further, will actively engage all relevant stakeholders to co-design future successful strategies tackling childhood obesity. Over 10,000 schools and 3.3 million students aged 9-16, will be targeted through outreach efforts. The project will establish a framework for continuously assessing and validating the new proposed policies, optimising evidence-based strategies for up-scaling and widespread adoption.

Furthermore, the aim is to create inter-disciplinary communities of practice (CoP) which are composed of various stakeholders (i.e. physicians, oncologists, obesity associations, guardians, scholar units, educators, nutritionists, policy-makers, ministries, healthcare institution decision-makers in various care settings, etc.) for supervising the design, adaptation, implementation, and assessment of the proposed interventions. To this purpose, PREVENT will utilise existing digital tools which already proved to be successful (e.g., gamification, Augmented Reality (AR), apps, interactions, etc.) to maximise participation and empower users. Consortium partners will start working on creating communities of practice in the upcoming months.

The project will follow multiple steps. Firstly, current primary intervention policies for weight control and implementation barriers and gaps will be examined. PREVENT will then identify and quantify health-related indicators of paediatric obesity with respect to cancer risk in adulthood and deliver quantitative and qualitative indicators for intervention/engagement assessment. Based on the results, the PREVENT primary interventions will be designed. The proposed primary interventions will be multi-actor in the sense that they target different groups of users (e.g., students, family, educators, policy-makers) and context-aware meaning that PREVENT interventions will be tailored to cover different implementation settings (class, canteen, sports fields, labs, outside school) in the three LL countries characterised by diverse cultural, socio-economic and geographical factors. The pilots will involve a variety of actors involved in or responsible for management of health, including users, medical professionals, policy-makers, public authorities, and civil communities.
At a later stage, PREVENT will investigate successful practices, and develop policy recommendations, to address scaling-up challenges in weight control interventions.

During the two-day meeting, the partners went through the tasks, activities and phases of work, and planned future actions. The meeting was attended by representatives of the consortium partners: National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece), National Public Health Organization (Greece), Ministry of Health (Greece), Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs (Greece), Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), Swedish Food Agency (Sweden), Internationella Engelska Skolan I Sverige AB (Sweden), Fundacio Institucio Dels Centres de Ricerca de Catalynia (Spain), Departament de salut – Generalitat de Catalunya (Spain), European Health Management Association (Belgium), The European Association for the Study of Obesity (Ireland), Cancer Patients Europe (Belgium), Istituto di Sociologia Internazionale di Gorizia (Italy), Timelex (Belgium), Arbisense AB (Sweden), Wellics Software Technologies and Research P.C. (Greece), Fundacion Instituto Tecnologico de Castilla y Leon (Spain), Risa Sicherheitsanalysen GmbH (Germany), Anigma Technologies (Belgium), and Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (Greece).

Projects awarded under the same call that form together the ‘Prevention and Early Detection of Cancer Cluster’ were presented, namely CO-CAPTAIN, CPW, ONCODIR, PIECES, and 4P-CAN. PREVENT will plan synergy actions primarily with these projects.
The discussion was fruitful and resulted in a valuable exchange of views that will enrich the course of work. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of the partners who participated in these two days and are actively working on the PREVENT project, including the Greek partners who hosted the meeting and facilitated the discussions. The PREVENT consortium will continue to carry out its activities in the following months and meet online regularly. Follow us on our social media channels (Twitter and LinkedIn) for more updates!