The European Commission has suggested an enhanced cooperation in the R&D area in Europe to address major societal challenges. This so called Joint Programming Initiative is a European process, by which Member States engage on a variable geometry basis in defining, developing and implementing a joint vision document with common SRA to address major societal challenges that no individual Member State is capable of handling independently. In other words, JPIs represents a voluntary partnership between Member States and Associated Countries of the European Union and aims to bring major benefits to particular sector of public and societal life.
Health and Nutrition are such societal challenges. The promotion of healthy lifestyles with better diets and increased physical activity is of utmost importance for future public health, well-being and prosperity in Europe. Food production and human nutrition are embedded into rapidly changing scientific, economic and societal environments. These are characterised by an increasing demand for high quality foods for an ageing and growing world population and an increasing competition for resources such as land, water and crops for production of feed, food and raw materials used for fuels and industrial biotechnology. It can be expected that this will result across the EU in major changes in the availability of foods, and will lead to cost increases that will, secondarily also affect nutrition and health. Furthermore, the food and drink industry will need to comply with agreements on emissions reduction and biodiversity targets that promote a more resource-efficient, greener and more competitive European economy.
Moreover, it has become increasingly clear that particularly poor diet, life-style choices and obesity are implicated as key determinants for many chronic diseases. Nutrition and physical activity strategies should aim to promote health and prevent nutrition deficiencies, inactivity and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Hence, European public health policies and research are focusing on healthy living and ageing, not only on increasing the chance of living for more years, but also preventing and postponing the onset of diet-related diseases. Emphasis should be put on preventing rather than curing these diseases by delaying the pre-initiation process.
In the context of the JPI “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life”, trans-disciplinary expertise, knowledge, facilities and approaches ranging from blue sky research to large population studies and controlled trials are needed to investigate the relationship between diet, exercise and health. In addition, there is a need to examine the influence of genotypes, individual genetic and epigenetic differences, dietary patterns and life styles, including their interactions and changes over the time, on health and disease susceptibility and morbidity.