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The institute 4 Preventive Health has awarded €150.000 to five seed grants for innovative and interdisciplinary research in the field of preventive health.

Last October we issued a Seed Fund Call under the theme: “Optimizing Functioning and Self-Efficacy Across Various Life Stages.”

Within the institute 4 Preventive Health we want to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors influence the independent functioning of individuals, and what the role of their biological and social systems is. How do these factors impact resilience, and how can we enhance individuals’ self-efficacy through lifestyle, healthcare, and support from environmental, societal, and technological innovation?

Following a thorough evaluation of the submitted applications, we are delighted to announce that five projects, featuring a collaborative effort of 28 researchers from TU/e, WUR, UU, and UMCU, have been selected to receive the Seed Grants. The awarded projects are listed below in random order:

Ultra-processed dietary patterns and cardiometabolic health: improving measurement and developing solutions to support individual self-efficacy to make healthy food choices

Research Line: Living with Disease / Granted €30.000

Ultra-processed foods, laden with additives and refined ingredients, contribute to health issues like obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Dutch supermarkets heavily promote these items, comprising over 56% of food promotions. Existing research lacks consistent criteria for categorizing ultra-processed foods, neglects their varied nutritional composition, and overlooks socio-economic factors influencing consumption.

This project aims to establish an objective definition, explore health effects across socio-economic groups, and create ethically sound interventions to promote healthier eating. Long-term goals include defining ultra-processed foods, understanding their health effects, and developing integrative approaches to support diverse consumer groups in making healthier food choices, ultimately addressing health disparities.

Involved Researchers

Pieter van Gorp (TU/e), Neha Khandpur (PI) (WUR), Maartje Poelman (PI) (WUR), Marianne Geleijnse (WUR), Sanne Djojosoeparto (WUR) Carlijn Kamphuis (UU), Marcel Verweij (UU), Liesbeth Velema (Netherlands Nutrition Centre).

Designing a social network-based ICT application for and with the ‘new elderly

Research Line: Health @ Home / Granted €30.000

Rising social isolation among the elderly in the Netherlands poses a public health concern, particularly for those with lower socio-economic status. Leveraging ICT applications to address this issue is promising, especially among the digitally literate ‘new elderly’ (aged 65-75). Existing interventions, ranging from social networks to robotics, show varying effectiveness, with simpler tools incorporating human contacts proving more impactful.

Recognizing the resistance to new technologies among the elderly, the project aims to design an ICT application tailored to the needs of the ‘new elderly’ through a two-step needs assessment. The study involves a systematic literature review and participatory sessions to co-develop a prototype, engaging elderly stakeholders for insights. Ultimately, the project seeks to empower the elderly to use technology effectively and reduce social isolation.

Involved Researchers

Kristina Thompson (WUR), Callum Gunn (PI) (UMCU), Hanna Hauptmann (UU), Anouk de Regt (UU)

Reaching for Success: A Feasibility Study into How Sports Empower Disadvantaged Youth

Research Line: Healthy Start / Granted €30.000

Despite the known positive mental health benefits of sports participation among youth, disadvantaged groups, including those from low-income families and with social or behavioral challenges, engage less in sports.

This project aims to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of a large-scale longitudinal study focusing on the effects of sports participation on positive mental health outcomes in disadvantaged youth.

Challenges include engaging these youth in research activities and navigating the uncontrolled sports context. The study adopts a participatory approach, involving stakeholders such as researchers, parents, coaches, and youth workers. Collaboration with Life Goals and ClubCoach initiatives enhances the project’s practical relevance and support.

Involved Researchers

Daniel Tetteroo (TU/e), Kirsten Verkooijen (WUR), Lonneke van Leeuwen (PI) (UMCU), Gonneke Stevens (UU)

Disentangling sex and gender differences in diabetes through personalised prevention and management

Research Line: Living with Disease / Granted €30.000

Sex and gender significantly impact health outcomes, yet research often relies on predominantly male study populations. This project addresses the critical need for sex-specific research, particularly in cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Notably, women with diabetes face a three-fold higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared to men.

The study explores the role of body composition and fat distribution, aiming to identify mechanisms for tailored interventions. Recognizing the societal impact of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the project considers prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies.

Additionally, the project adopts an intersectional perspective, addressing socio-demographic factors contributing to health inequalities.

Involved Researchers

Natal van Riel (TU/e), Lydia Afman (WUR), Sanne Peters (PI) (UMCU), Jantien van Berkel (UU)

Power 4 Parents: A strategy to empower parents in the first year after delivery towards improved diet quality.

Research Line: Healthy Start / Granted €30.000

The “Power 4 Parents” project aims to enhance the diet quality of parents in the first year postpartum through an empowerment strategy, recognizing its impact on maternal and infant health. Existing barriers for healthy eating during this critical period include limited knowledge, psychological challenges, and financial constraints.

The Netherlands faces a gap in postpartum nutritional counseling, attributed to professionals’ constraints in knowledge and time. To address this, the project proposes an empowerment program, building on the successful “Power 4 a Healthy Pregnancy” initiative. The strategy involves co-creation with stakeholders, especially targeting disadvantaged parents.

Involved Researchers

Yuan Lu (TU/e), Annemarie Wagemakers (PI) (WUR), Edith Feskens (WUR), Elske Brouwer-Brolsma (WUR), Renske van Lonkhuijzen (WUR), Anneloes van Baar (UU), Indre Kalinauskaite (UMCU), Madelon Meijer-Hoogeveen (UMCU)