Policy Evaluation Network - Public policies addressing health-related behaviours in Europe

JPI HDHL JFA “Policy Evaluation Network” (PEN)
Policy Evaluation Network - Public policies addressing health-related behaviours in Europe
Professor Wolfgang Ahrens
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS


Partner Organization Partner Country
University College Cork (CHDR)Ireland
Medical University of Silesia in Katowice (SILVeR)Poland
University College Dublin (UCD-PH)Ireland
Vrije Universiteit (VU-P&P)The Netherlands
msterdam University Medical Center (VUmc)The Netherlands
Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam (SocialEpiEMCR)The Netherlands
Oslo Metropolitan University (HiOA)Norway
University of Bologna (UNIBO)Italy
Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam (PHP-DP)The Netherlands
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (EBPH-LMU)Germany
Helmholtz Zentrum München (T-HMGU)Germany
Gdansk University of Technlogy (GUT)Poland
Grenoble Applied Economics Laboratory, French National Institute of Agricultural Research (GAEL- INRA)France
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS)Poland
Poznan University of Medical Sciences (Po-LI)Poland
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)Germany
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC)Italy
University of Limerick (UL)Ireland
Medical Center - University of Freiburg (CG-IEM)Germany
Friedrich‐Alexander University, Institute of Sport Science and Sport (FAU-ISS)Germany
University of Oslo, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences (UiO-PHN)Norway
University of Ulm, Division of Sport and Rehabilitation Medicine (UUlm)Germany
Robert Koch Institute (RKI)Germany
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU)Germany
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS)Germany
Alimentation et Sciences Sociales (INRA ALISS)France
Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University (HUL)The Netherlands
University of Auckland (UOA)New Zealand

1. Overall project description

1.1 Summary

As part of the Joint Programming Initiative on a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL), 28 research institutes from seven European countries and New Zealand combined their expertise to form the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN). PEN’s vision is to provide Europe with tools to identify, evaluate and benchmark policies designed to directly or indirectly address physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and sedentary behaviour while accounting for existing health inequities. In operation for one year, PEN through a series of consortium-wide activities, network meetings, PEN presentations at national and international conferences, PEN publications and capacity building workshops with policy makers has ensured that its scientists have met project milestones and deliverables. In summary, the Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI), originally developed in New Zealand was reviewed for acceptability across all PEN countries and subsequently updated and improved for application in Europe. A Health Enhancing Physical Activity Policy Audit (HEPA-PAT) was carried out in the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland and Germany, the results of which are in review for publication. Experts in policy, within and beyond PEN, have identified key policy impact indicators and the potential for their adoption by large EU surveillance systems through an iterative process led by PEN scientists. The aim is to embed policy evaluation measures within existing surveillance systems across the EU. Modelling is an important part of PEN, and to date novel and innovative methods have been applied to data to determine the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes. Three systematic literature review protocols on policy implementation have been registered on PROSPERO, with recommendations from a fourth systematic review already indicating strategies that national policy makers could put into practice to enhance the acceptability of SSB taxes. PEN has also developed collaborations with other EU funded projects, namely CO-CREATE and STOP. As each project is examining different aspects of policy, our aim is to maximise the impact of each individual project through collaboration and to date, we have shared training resources and are co-presenting a workshop at an international conference. PEN is keen to support and harness the potential of its early stage researchers (<7 years post PhD), and a PEN Early Research network is being established. In conclusion, PEN’s first project year has been a hive of activity resulting in increased collaboration, networking and led to quality scientific outputs from the consortium.

1.2 Highlights


Building on INFORMAS work, the Food-EPI Best Practice Exemplars (BPEs) and all FOOD-EPI indicators across 13 domains of the food system in PEN countries were extensively reviewed and updated by PEN/STOP partners.

WHO’s Health Enhancing Physical Activity policy audit tool (HEPA PAT) was completed for Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland.


Selection and prioritisation of key indicators for EU health monitoring: a) A list of 177 diet-related and 144 physical activity and sedentary behaviour indicators for policy monitoring in Europe was collated based on existing frameworks; and b) The original indicators were then prioritized during a 2-day expert workshop in September 2019, attended by researchers and policy makers (N=39) with a final list published in Nov. 2019.


A scoping review on the application of the GRADE system to support health policy making (e.g. guidelines) and policy evaluation (e.g. systematic reviews evaluating policy interventions) was completed and is currently under review.

A variety of ex-post counterfactual methods and data is considered and compared to evaluate the impact of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes, including household budget data for the 2017 Catalunya tax, and home scan data for the planned 2020 Italian tax.

Collaboration with the University of Liverpool will allow exploitation and adaptation of an existing simulation model to quantify the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and equity of a wide range of interventions and public health policies.

A protocol to run a review of methods to simulate the health impact of policies aiming for changes in the distribution of dietary- and PA-related risk factors has been produced.


Two review protocols have been registered: a) Frameworks of implementation (ID CRD42019133251); and b) Determinants, barriers and facilitators for implementation (ID CRD42019133341).

Stakeholder consultation to assess policy implementation was conducted in terms of a Theory of Change workshop in Stuttgart, Germany.


A review protocols on inequalities and food environment-related policies has been registered (https://osf.io/fm4xv). A systems map is developed to understand implications for policies to improve diet in low-income groups.


Based on a systematic review of the literature, several recommendations to increase acceptability and enhance successful adoption and implementation of an SSB tax have been formulated, namely: (i) address inconsistencies between identified beliefs and scientific literature, (ii) use raised revenue for health initiatives, (iii) communicate transparently about the true purpose of the tax, and (iv) generate political priority for solutions supporting implementation (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-019-0843-0).


The core paper describing the scope and design of PEN was published in Food Policy (DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101873).

Collaboration with the Horizon2020 projects CO-CREATE and STOP was established to create synergies. 


4. Impact

4.1 List of publications

AuthorsTitleYear, Issue, PPPartners NumberDoiPdf
Eykelenboom M, van Stralen MM, Olthof MR, Schoonmade LJ, Steenhuis IHM, Renders CM (VU-P&P),; PEN Consortium.on behalf of the PEN Consortium.Political and public acceptability of a sugars-weetened beverages tax: a mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis10.1186/s12966-019-0843-0
Lakerveld J (VUmc), Woods C (UL), Hebestreit A (BIPS), Brenner H (DKFZ), Flechtner-Mors M (UUlm), Harrington J (CHDR), Kamphuis C (HUL), Laxy M (T-HMGU), Luszczynska A (SWPS), Mazzocchi M (UNIBO), Murrin C (UCD-PH), Poelman M (HUL), Steenhuis IHM (VU-P&P), Roos G (OlsoMet), Steinacker J (UUlm), Stock C (DKFZ), van Lenthe F, (SocialEpiEMCR), Zeeb H (BIPS), Zukowska J (GUT), Ahrens W (BIPS). Advancing the evidence base for public policies impacting on dietary behaviour, physical activity and sedentary behaviour in Europe: The Policy Evaluation Network promoting a multidisciplinary approach10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101873
Krzyminska-Siemaszko R, Kropinska S, Lewandowicz-Umyszkiewicz M, Suwalska A, Wieczorowska-Tobis K (PUMS), on behalf the PEN consortium. European Project Policy Evaluation Network (PEN): geriatric point of view (abstract)https://doi.org/10.1007/s41999-019-00221-0

4.2 Presentation of the project

Target groupAuthorsMeans of communicationHyperlinkPdf
Scientific community [higher education, research]Wolfgang Ahrens (BIPS), Catherine Woods (UL), Jeroen Lakerveld (VUmc) on behalf of the PEN Consortium. Effectiveness of existing policies for lifestyle interventions – Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), 4th JPI HDHL Conference, Brussels, Dec. 2017 Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Antje Hebestreit (BIPS), Sarah Forberger (BIPS), Effectiveness of existing policies for lifestyle interventions – Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), Internal event (“Jour-Fixe”) at BIPS, Bremen, Germany, Feb. 2018Talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Lucia Reisch (BIPS), Effectiveness of existing policies for lifestyle interventions – Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), Internal event at the Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, Mar. 2018Talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Catherine Woods (UL), Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), Working group of the European network for the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA), video conference, Jun. 2018 Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Michelle Eykelenboom, Maartje van Stralen, Margreet Olthof , Linda Schoonmade, Ingrid Steenhuis and Carry Renders (VU-P&P), Political and social acceptability of a sugar-sweetened beverages tax: a mixed-method systematic review and meta-analysis, 18th Meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA), Prague, Czech Republic, Jun. 2019Talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Catherine Woods (UL), Policy Evaluation Network (PEN), ICPAH conference, London, United Kingdom, Oct. 2018Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Katarzyna Wieczorowska-Tobis (PUMS), Roma Krzyminska-Siemaszko (PUMS), Sylwia Kropinska (PUMS), Aleksandra Suwalska (Po-LI), on behalf of the PEN consortium, Siec ewaluacji polityk – projekt europejski; zadania Uniwersytetu Medycznego w Poznaniu (European Project Policy Evaluation Network: from the perspective of Poznan University of Medical Sciences), National conference for dieticians, Poznan, Poland, Mar. 2019Poster
Scientific community [higher education, Research]Peter Gelius, Karim Abu-Omar (FAU), The work of the WHO CC for physical activity and public health at FAU, Meeting of the workgroup “Physical activity in everyday life” of the German Ministry of Health, Berlin, Germany, May 2019 Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, Research]Catherine Woods (UL), The Physical activity and sedentary behaviour side of PEN, 15th Annual meeting and 10th conference of HEPA Europe, Odense, Denmark, Aug. 2019 Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, research]Roma Krzyminska-Siemaszko, Sylwia Kropinska, Marta Lewandowicz-Umyszkiewicz, Aleksandra Suwalska, Katarzyna Wieczorowska-Tobis (Po-LI) on behalf the PEN consortium. European Project Policy Evaluation Network (PEN): geriatric point of view. 15th International Congress of the European Geriatric Medicine Society (EuGMS), Krakow, Poland, Sep. 2019Poster
Scientific community [higher education, research]Daniel Scheller, Janine Wendt, Annabel Mueller-Stierlin, Marion Flechtner-Mors (UUlm), Aleksandra Luszczynska (SWPS), Hajo Zeeb (BIPS), Juergen Steinacker (UUlm), Effectiveness of existing policies for lifestyle interventions – Policy Evaluation Network – WP4 Implementation, 8th Conference of the European Initiative for Exercise in Medicine (EIEIM), Amsterdam, Netherlands, Sep. 2019Poster
Scientific community and civil societyNoah V. Peters (BIPS/CBS) & Lucia A. Reisch (BIPS), Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) - Fostering sustainable and active transport in Copenhagen, ‘Festival for the Global Goals’ organised by Frederiksberg Municipality and hosted by Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Copenhagen, Denmark, Sep. 2019Poster
Piotr Romaniuk (SILVeR). Best food policy practices. Road to framework convention on food systems: tackling global syndemic with food policy. Pre-conference workshop of the 12th European Public Health Conference, Marseille, France, Nov. 2019Invited talk
Scientific community [higher education, Research]Piotr Romaniuk (SILVeR). Identifying best practices in junk food taxation and other food policies. Selected examples and their assessment. At the workshop: Impact of nutrition on non-communicable chronic diseases: a global perspective, 12th European Public Health Conference, Marseille, France, Nov. 2019Talk
Piotr Romaniuk (SILVeR). An emerging trend to tax sugar sweetened beverages and other junk foods: overregulation or an effective way to modify dietary behaviours? At the workshop: To regulate or not to regulate: that is still the question, 12th European Public Health Conference, Marseille, France, Nov. 2019Talk

4.3 List of submitted patents and other outputs

Patent licencePartners involvedYearInternational eu or national patentCommentPdf

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s
H2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement n.696300

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