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Obesity scientists meet to court EU funds

Danish obesity experts met last week at the University of Copenhagen to discuss how to get a hold of EU’s future research investments

Within the last generation, the number of obese Danish people has doubled. Today, more than one out of five is overweight. Last week, 50 of Denmark’s most renowned obesity scientists met at the University of Copenhagen to discuss how to fight these numbers.

The overall ambition of ‘The Danish Workshop on Obesity Research towards Horizon 2020’ was to get the attention of the EU, which is expected to direct its future grants towards research initiatives that address the current challenges of society. Of course, Denmark’s obesity researchers do not want to be left behind.

»The main point of this workshop is to get the scientists together to discuss how they can do future research that can really help approach a solution, or a reduction, in obesity,« says Camilla Verdich, research co-ordinator at the Faculty of Health Sciences. »And that is exactly the kind of research that the EU is interested in,« she adds.

New interdisciplinary strategy

Whereas obesity research is traditionally undertaken by natural scientists, the researchers agreed that it can be sufficiently addressed only if insights from the Humanities and Social Sciences are taken into account.

Consequently, the researchers plan to start new interdisciplinary collaborations in order to illuminate the problem from all relevant angles.

»The problem is not only knowing how people can lose weight or how they become obese. It is common knowledge that you should exercise and eat healthy; the bottleneck is really how to find ways to adjust society so that people are encouraged to make a healthy life choice. We know a lot about what is healthy but very little about how to change people’s habits,« Camilla Verdich explains.

Danish scientists not alone

Apparently, Danish scientists are not alone in anticipating that obesity will become the core of the EU research agenda.

Researchers across Europe need to make the politicians aware of obesity as a societal problem and show them how their research can contribute to finding a solution.

Workshops similar to the one at University of Copenhagen are scheduled to take place in Germany and Brussels within the next months.

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