Making healthy food and lifestyle choices easier for families - evidence from the European funded I Family Study research project
Professor Wolfgang Ahrens based in Germany and joins eHealth Radio and the Children's Health, Health News & Family Channels. Ahrens is Project Co-ordinator of the European funded I Family research project into what drives food and lifestyle choice in European children and families and how those choices impact on lifelong health.
Listen to interview with host Eric Michaels and guest Wolfgang Ahrens discuss the following:
- The I Family Study won funding from Europe in the face of strong competition. What was it about your proposal and your ambitions for the 5 year research project that secured that approval and the funding?
- What is the I Family Study contributing to further our understanding of how European families and children in particular can be helped to live healthier lives? What’s new in terms of science and evidence that can help individuals help themselves?
- What would be the one key, that the I Family Study and their message for families and particularly parents about how they can help their children invest in their life long health? Is it food choice or is it engaging in physical activity – where should parents place their efforts? How can we help ourselves and our families to combat obesity and other health issues?
- What practical advice can I Family give to healthcare professionals across Europe as to how best they can support families? Where should they put their efforts? Are there interventions that work & can be relied on to provide that support?
- Can families and healthcare professionals on their own deliver the change that’s needed to combat the global long-term trend towards sed-en-tary lives and weight gain? Isn’t there a need for Europe-wide and also national regulation to combat this trend?
Conclusion: At an individual level there is much that families – adults and children – can do to help themselves if they prioritise their lifelong health. But at a population level, to support particularly the most vulnerable/those with least advantages, as professionals we believe there has to be appropriate regulation and policies to help us all combat modern society and life which makes it too easy to eat and act less healthily than we should.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ahrens is professor of epidemiological methods at the faculty of mathematics and computer science of the University of Bremen, Germany. He is Deputy Director of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology - BIPS in Bremen and head of the department Epidemiological Methods and Etiological Research. Having finished his biology studies in 1985 he worked as scientific assistant in numerous epidemiologic studies with focus on work- and environment-related cancer.
In the years 1995-1998 he established the working group Epidemiology at the Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University Clinic Essen. After his PhD thesis on "Retrospective assessment of occupational exposure in epidemiological case- control studies" he established the cross sectional division Epidemiological Methods and Field Work at the BIPS. From 1998-2003 he was Head of the division.
In 2000 he qualified as professor for Epidemiology and Public Health. In 2003 he was offered a W3-professorship for Epidemiological Methods at Bremen University. A key focus of his research addresses the causes of lifestyle diseases as well as their primary prevention and the scientific evaluation of intervention measures. Further research interests lie in the area of the aetiology of cancer with focus on environmental factors and occupational exposures and the use of secondary data for epidemiological research. He initiated the largest Europe-wide intervention study on overweight, obesity and other disorders in children conditioned by nutrition, lifestyle and social factors (www.idefics.eu; 2006-2012) and is currently coordinating the subsequent prospective cohort study on lifestyle, diet and exercise in children, adolescents and their parents - the I.Family study (www.ifamilystudy.eu; 2012-2017).
Furthermore, he is a Member of the Board of Directors, chair of the Northwest cluster and PI of the study centre Bremen of the German National Cohort (GNC). The German National Cohort is a joint interdisciplinary endeavour of scientists from the Helmholtz and the Leibniz Association, universities, and other research institutes. Its aim is to investigate the causes for the development of major chronic diseases, i.e. cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative/-psychiatric diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory and infectious diseases, and their pre-clinical stages or functional health impairments. (www.nako.de).