GrowH! is a collaborative research project addressing a well-known but still poorly understood public health problem: how to structurally and sustainably install and maintain healthy lifestyles at population level with the aim to reverse the current trends in overweight and obesity, to foster prevention of chronic diseases and further enhance healthy life expectancy for the people in Europe. In particular, vulnerable groups, who have not been reached successfully by previous prevention measures, will be addressed with two intervention projects included in GrowH!

As part of the Joint Programming Initiative on a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL), 6 research partner institutions based in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, and 2 collaborating institutes based in Belgium and Canada, will engage with further experts, policy makers, stakeholders, interested citizens and target groups to explore the feasibility of implementing innovative promising strategies and approaches for obesity prevention in children and their families. In particular, GrowH! will investigate if and how such new approaches for tackling this public health problem can be transferred and adapted to the needs of different populations and suggest changes in society accordingly.

GrowH! will build further on results of two unique ongoing European studies involving children and adolescents (IDEFICS/ I.Family and ABCD birth cohort) to gain additional insight into the determinants of lifestyles and will apply new statistical approaches for investigating life-course tipping points and critical time windows in the development of overweight and how the different lifestyle factors play a role in this.

The GrowH! study started in April 2021 and will run 3 years, until March 2024.


GrowH! pillars and objectives

To achieve its objectives, GrowH! will build on three pillars:

(1) re-analysis of longitudinal data of the IDEFICS/I.Family and the ABCD cohorts;

(2) adaptation of two participatory local prevention projects showing first promising results to be implemented in two other countries; and

(3) exploitation of existing evidence and expert networks on targeted and systems approaches for obesity prevention.


GrowH! will focus on the following main objectives:

  • To better understand the factors involved in the development of obesity during the early life-course by quantifying their relative impact, by deriving a life-course model for the development of obesity during growth and by modelling the impact of hypothetical early life interventions;
  • To develop efficient participatory prevention approaches – particularly targeting vulnerable groups – to achieve a long-lasting reduction in obesity by mapping the most effective interventions against the most important risk factors at each critical transition period;
  • To implement and evaluate proof-of-feasibility studies of the above approaches and to assess their scalability; and
  • To develop evidence-based policy guidance for integration of the targeted interventions into a broader systems approach for obesity prevention.



Expected in:
(subject to changes)

M1.1 Harmonisation of variables needed for validation across cohort datasets achieved
March 2022
M2.1 Ethical approval obtained for both proof-of-feasibility studies
March 2022
M3.1 Instruments and operations manual ready to use for both proof-of-feasibility studies
April 2022
M2.2 Multidisciplinary obesity systems expert panel established
September 2022
M4.1 International symposium on the GrowH! systems framework
March 2024
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