Growing up healthy: Obesity prevention tailored to critical transition periods in the early life-course


Obesity prevention programmes often have had only limited or short-term effects. In particular socially vulnerable groups, who are affected most, have not been reached successfully. If the known modifiable risk factors were effectively changed in a favourable direction and if this was achieved in the early life course and in the most affected population sub-groups, the burden of obesity and its related cardio-metabolic disorders could be reduced immensely. GrowH! will take advantage of the most recent longitudinal research results on risk factors and novel participatory intervention approaches in youth to develop and test better targeted and more effective primary prevention strategies. To this aim, GrowH! will address three research questions: (1) What is the – possibly agedependent – impact of known modifiable risk factors at critical transition periods during the early life-course and which hypothetical interventions would result in the strongest reduction of overweight, obesity and their sequelae later in life? (2) Can two different novel participatory intervention approaches that have shown first promising effects be successfully transferred to socially disadvantaged populations in Spain and Germany and can these then be scaled-up sustainably by operational stakeholders? (3) What are the structural and regulatory requirements and conditions for the implementation and up-scaling of the developed intervention approaches onto a regional,
national or international level from a whole systems perspective? The answers to these questions will feed into a policy guidance that will be worked out and disseminated for wider use and sustainability of the available evidence in a European context together with public health societies and the WHO.

The project is funded within the framework of the Joint Programming Initiative "A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life" (JPI HDHL).

Funding period

Begin:   April 2021
End:   March 2024


  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Dr. rer. nat. Maike Wolters


Project website

Selected project-related publications

    Articles with peer-review

  • Börnhorst C, Ahrens W, De Henauw S, Hunsberger M, Molnár D, Moreno LA, Russo P, Schreuder A, Sina E, Tornaritis M, Vandevijvere S, Veidebaum T, Vrijkotte T, Wijnant K, Wolters M, on behalf of the GrowH! consortium. Age-specific quantification of overweight/obesity risk factors from infancy to adolescence and differences by educational level of parents. International Journal of Public Health. 2023;68:1605798.
  • Börnhorst C, Pigeot I, De Henauw S, Formisano A, Lissner L, Molnár D, Moreno LA, Tornaritis M, Veidebaum T, Vrijkotte T, Didelez V, Wolters M, on behalf of the GrowH! consortium. The effects of hypothetical behavioral interventions on the 13-year incidence of overweight/obesity in children and adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2023;20:100.
  • Schreuder A, Börnhorst C, Wolters M, Veidebaum T, Tornaritis M, Sina E, Russo P, Moreno LA, Molnár D, Lissner L, De Henauw S, Ahrens W, Vrijkotte T, on behalf of the GrowH! consortium. Population trajectories and age-dependent associations of obesity risk factors with BMI from childhood to adolescence across European regions: A two-cohort study. Pediatric Obesity. 2023; (im Druck).