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The Healthy LIFestyle for low liTerate teenagers (LIFTS) project was awarded 1.4 million euros from NWO-KIC on 23 March 2023. The research focuses on promoting a sustainable healthy lifestyle among low-literate teenagers in practical education using accessible and engaging technologies such as games. Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology and some 20 social partners – accounting for the remaining 0.3 million euros – are pulling together in this. The project will run from September 2023 to September 2028.

About 7.2% of young people in the Netherlands have a mild intellectual disability (IQ 50-70). They struggle with learning difficulties and often grow up in a low socio-economic environment. Making healthy choices is therefore extra challenging, while health problems in this group are increasing. Kirsten Verkooijen, project leader LIFTS and associate professor of Health & Society at WUR: ‘With this project, we want to contribute to a healthy future for these young people and their social environment. By effectively using innovative health technology that matches the needs, wishes and experiences of these young people.’

Living labs

The project team is setting up four living labs around four practical schools. Here, participatory research will take place with and for practical school pupils, together with teachers, carers, designers, policymakers and researchers. Verkooijen: ‘We focus on two pillars here: How can we best involve these young people and their parents? And which technologies help them make healthy choices? Think, for example, of health apps that provide personalised feedback in the form of a game.’

The combination of participatory research and hard technologies is unique and crucial, according to Verkooijen. ‘This group of young people often falls by the wayside, because mainstream (school) provision does not match their needs. With more insight into their living environment and motivations, we can develop effective solutions.’


To enable co-creation of technological innovation, knowledge, social and industrial partners pull together. The core academic partners consist of a multidisciplinary research team from the Institute 4 Preventive Health (I4PH), part of the EWUU alliance (Eindhoven Technical University, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and Utrecht University Medical Centre). They contribute knowledge on participatory research, behaviour, nutrition and technologies. Societal and industrial partners bring practical experience and technical expertise. Involved include four practical schools, the Sectorraad praktijkonderwijs, Stichting Special Heroes Nederland, NOC*NSF, Kenniscentrum Sport & Bewegen, InnoSportLab Sport & Beweeg, Trimbos Institute, Voedingscentrum, Aptus, Dutch Rose Media BV, GGD Gelderland Zuid and GGD regio Utrecht.

Knowledge and innovation agenda

With this research, the Institute 4 Preventive Health is contributing to the Knowledge and Innovation Agenda (KIA) Health and Care. The mission from which this call stems has two goals for 2040. The first goal is that all Dutch people live at least five years longer in good health. The second goal is that the health disparities between the lowest and highest socio-economic groups are reduced by 30%.