Helping the children and adults in Bosnia and Herzegovina to eat better and move more
Dr Mihela Erjavec from the Centre for Activity and Eating Research (CAER) at the School of Psychology had been invited to take part in the ‘Reducing Health Risks in Bosnia and Herzegovina Project’ led by the World Bank. Many thousands of children and their families should benefit from the interventions set to promote healthy diet and physical exercise and to reduce tobacco and alcohol misuse. This ambitious project, funded by the Swiss Government and Development agency, will run until the end of 2018 in the first instance.
As the international consultant for healthy diet and physical activity, Dr Erjavec is working with a team of experts to advise the Ministries of Health in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the application of methods of contemporary evidence-based practice to promote healthy living habits and reduce key risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
She explains, “In our first mission in March 2017, the consultants provided a situational analysis and expert recommendations. We travelled to several communities and spoke to stakeholders from all walks of life, visiting nurseries, schools, health centres, and government offices. The program will be implemented by the local organisations and responsive to community needs, but the expert advice will be offered at each stage of its planning, delivery, and evaluation.”
“I am thrilled to be able to work with, and learn from, the excellent team put together by the World Bank, and those organisations and individuals working locally to improve the health of children and adults. This prestigious consultancy is another recognition of the expertise that the CAER lab and CoHaBs has to offer, and of our commitment to applying science to solving real life problems, in the UK and abroad.”
The challenges posed by the project are global, similar to those faced by other developed and developing countries. A recent census in Bosnia and Herzegovina revealed that a high proportion of the adult population are smokers and children start to smoke early; alcohol use is a social norm for adolescents and acts as a social glue for many adults; population diet contains few fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish, and other wholesome nutrient-rich foods; and sedentary lifestyles are on the rise.
The World Bank Group ( http://www.worldbank.org ), based in Washington DC, is the largest and best known development bank in the world, providing loans and assistance to low- and medium-income countries. The present project, together with the healthcare and legislation reforms already under way, should set the foundations for a sustained programme of changes in the target communities, and contribute to a gradual but steady improvement in the health and wellbeing of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dr Fran Garrad-Cole, Deputy Head of Psychology (Impact) said “Mihela has amassed a wealth of experience with her dedicated work on the ‘Food Dudes’ at Bangor University. Research-led projects, driven by principles of modelling and positive behaviour change, have had significant impacts on promoting and strengthening healthy eating in children in the UK and beyond. It’s wonderful to see similar approaches being adapted for an overseas population as part of such an important initiative. This is a fabulous demonstration of how research from Bangor is having a positive impact on health and well-being both locally and internationally.”
See also a report in the local (Bosnian) Press:
Publication date: 31 March 2017