The WHO bestowed a great honor on BIPS in 2016 – the appointment as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Nutrition and Physical Activity. As Collaborating Centres, WHO selects scientific institutions that support the work of WHO. The international group of Collaborating Centres advises WHO, collects and analyzes data, and supports the development of international health guidelines.
Background WHO Collaborating Centres
WHO, headquartered in Geneva, is a specialized UN agency that has worked to improve global health, prevent diseases and promote health care since its founding in 1948. As a central coordinating body, WHO works closely with governments and nongovernmental organizations to develop strategies to address health risks.
Research institutes and parts of universities or academies that wish to support WHO's work can be designated Collaborating Centres by the WHO following an application process. Currently, there are over 800 Collaborating Centres in more than 80 member states worldwide. These centres collaborate with WHO in the areas of health and nursing care, occupational health, infectious diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases and health technology. In Germany, there are currently 25 WHO Collaborating Centres.
Tasks of BIPS as a WHO Collaborating Centre
- BIPS cooperates with WHO in the framework of the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). Childhood overweight and obesity threaten health across the WHO European Region and are linked to many non-communicable diseases, from cardiovascular diseases to diabetes and cancer. To find better solutions to this health problem, high-quality data are needed. This is what COSI is designed to provide. COSI involves standardized weight and height measurements, among other things, for more than 400,000 children in the WHO European Region. Since the fifth round, BIPS has been conducting COSI in Bremen (as the only federal state in Germany) with financial support from the Federal State of Bremen. The WHO integrates the data from Bremen/Germany into the COSI study, so that data from Germany were included in the analyses for the first time.
- BIPS analyzes the COSI data with a special focus on physical activity and helps to develop survey instruments and methods to improve the quality and comparability of data on childhood obesity. BIPS staff conducts data analyses, writes reports, and addresses research questions in collaboration with WHO. Together, we aim to improve surveillance of childhood obesity and develop evidence-based interventions to combat it.
- Geocodes (GPS and GIS) are numeric or alphanumeric codes representing specific geographic locations on earth. In cooperation with WHO, BIPS is developing concepts for integrating such geocodes (GPS, GIS) into health research – while, of course, complying with national data protection regulations. This innovative approach is consistent with WHO's goal of using new technologies to improve surveillance capacity for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), complementing traditional surveys of the member states. For example, the use of GIS and GPS enables the study of the relationship between environmental factors, such as the presence of green spaces, playgrounds or bicycle paths, and the NCD risk.
- Furthermore, BIPS is supporting WHO in the design and implementation of a training platform on NCDs (Platform for Training on NCDs – Surveillance, Implementation, and Evaluation). Coordinated by BIPS, the platform is being developed by several WHO Collaborating Centres. It offers training events for researchers and decision-makers working in the field of non-communicable diseases, among others. Together, they are working to strengthen the expertise needed to conduct data collection, implement prevention studies, and evaluate their effectiveness, with the ultimate goal of reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases.
- Based on findings from the Policy Evaluation Network, a European project funded under the framework of the Joint Programming Initiative "A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life", BIPS has established a Methodological Competence Platform (MCP) in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The MCP is intended to initiate a harmonization process that builds on and actively incorporates existing surveillance and monitoring systems. The aim is to improve the comparability of data across surveys, age groups and countries. The MCP is an expert group that brings together the expertise and resources of WHO and its Collaborating Centres, representatives of national and European surveillance and monitoring systems, and public health researchers. Further information on the MCP can be found here.