I.Family at ECO 2014


With its 30m high junk-food advertisements and huge confectionery logos dotting the urban landscape (see below), Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria – was perhaps an ideal choice of venue for the 21st European Congress on Obesity (ECO 2014); addressing poor diets is just one factor in solving the global problem of obesity and overweight.




The ECO is organised and hosted by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), the leading scientific and practice-based professional membership association with networks in over 30 countries. EASO’s mission is to promote the study of obesity and facilitate in reducing the burden of overweight in Europe through prevention and management; the annual ECO, which this year took place in the National Palace of Culture located in a large park in the south of Sofia (see below), is attended by researchers and practitioners from around the world.


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National Palace of Culture, Sofia ECO 2014 Opening Ceremony: traditional choir


The opening ceremony, during which delegates were entertained with a performance of traditional Bulgarian dancing and singing (see above), set the agenda for the four-day event.  Europe is the most heavily affected continent by obesity with 28m linked deaths annually; in 2011, 40m under 5s were overweight.  The message delivered by the EASO Executive Committee was clear: unhealthy lifestyles lead to an unhealthy society and only by joining our efforts can we succeed in reversing trends.

I.Family was one of twenty European projects fortunate to be invited to exhibit at ECO 2014.  Scandinavian I.Family partners also attended to present on posters (see below).  Read the media release about their involvement.

Top: I.Family Team at ECO 2014 (l-r):Kate Viggers (Minerva UK), Monica Hunsberger, Gianluca Tognon & Lauren Lissner (UGot) with Susanna Lehtinen-Jacks, Researcher, School of Health Sciences at the University of Tampere, Finland Bottom: Monican Hunsberger presents her IDEFICS poster 


Of particular interest was a special session on other EU-funded projects working on the topic of obesity and healthy nutrition, including diabetes prevention, maternal obesity, satiety innovation and the effect of nutrition on depression.  Co-ordinators offered sage advice on establishing clear objectives at the outset of a project, effective consortium collaboration, balancing description of work against budget flexibility, and developing a good rapport with European Project Officers.

Kate Viggers, who manned the I.Family stand at ECO 2014 on behalf of project partner Minerva UK, said: “ECO was a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the I.Family Study and build links with similar European projects.  There was great interest in the research being carried out by our different cohorts; many delegates took away a copy of our project brochure and also signed up to receive regular updates about our project activity and findings.”

ECO 2014 was also a hugely successful event for I.Family researcher Nathalie Michels from UGent, who won the EASO Young Investigators Award for her IDEFICS-linked PHD thesis on “The effect of chronic psychosocial stress on children’s health behaviour and body fatness”.  Read her story here.

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