Reflecting on five years of policy co-creation with youth: the CO-CREATE project

After five years, the CO-CREATE research project “Confronting Obesity: Co-creating policy with youth” has come to end. Reflections on the project’s achievements and sustained impact are shared below.

In 2018, the CO-CREATE project sought to address the escalating childhood obesity epidemic in Europe by working with young people in the development of tools and practices to strengthen their role in policy development. Throughout the five-year duration of the project, many noteworthy findings emerged:

  1. Social Media Impact: Social media has become an integral part of young people’s daily lives.  Influencers significant influence over dietary behaviour and attitudes to overweight and obesity. CO-CREATE research shows social media can also affect mental health, generating anxiety and depression and potentially causing eating disorders and weight gain. 
  2. Holistic Approach to Obesity: Tackling obesity means understanding young people’s social and psychological experiences, supporting their psychological resilience alongside their physical health, and supporting structural changes to their environments to make this easier.
  3. Policy Recommendations: CO-CREATE has shown that young people support policies to increase the use of economic tools to address the affordability of healthier foods, to ensure supply chains are coherent with health policies, and to support active transport and design neighbourhoods for safe and healthful physical activity. 

Key project outputs

Along with numerous publications and two research supplements, multiple public outputs were developed through CO-CREATE, all contributing to the sustained impact of the project. 

  • CO-CREATE Dialogue Forum: An intergenerational dialogue tool that connects youth and decisionmakers to co-create solutions for a healthier future. 
  • Youth-Led Change: A Systems Thinking Activity Toolkit: A set of CO-CREATE tools to encourage systems thinking when advocating for change. The toolkit is a complete guide for youth to learn about systems thinking in a fun and engaging way. 
  • MOVING and NOURISHING: An extensive database of national policies designed to encourage physical activity and nutrition, collected from countries around the world and which have been implemented and are currently operational.  
  • The CO-CREATE Youth Declaration: A statement by CO-CREATE youth calling for action from policymakers and stakeholders to address the global challenge of childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity. 
  • Nutrition and Physical Activity Policy Evaluation: Tools for benchmarking policies and for creating national policy index scores. The tools can assess progress in national policy actions and compare between countries. 

Ultimately, CO-CREATE has demonstrated that when young people are engaged in a manner that is meaningful, transparent and sustained, their collective potential is amplified, and they can be empowered to create healthier and more inclusive societies.

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