European Youth Tackling Obesity (EYTO) was a peer-led social marketing project in which groups of disadvantaged young people were empowered to engage with local stakeholders to promote healthy eating and physical activity and stem the rise in obesity among their peers, by creating their own new prevention campaigns.
The National Children’s Bureau’s (NCB) co-ordinated the project with partners across Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic. The project ran from September 2013 to September 2015, with 60% of funding coming from the European Union, and the remaining 40% in match funding from local partners. Core activities were:
- Reviewing learning from past or current social marketing interventions to promote healthy lifestyles
- Recruiting and supporting a network of 20 young volunteers to research, design and launch social marketing campaigns across their local communities to promote healthy lifestyles amongst their peers
- Supporting young people across the partnership to share ideas and replicate campaign activities
- Developing a website to launch the campaign (and associated tools and resources) across Europe
- Evaluating the impact of the campaign on outcomes for young people and those working to support them, and disseminating the learning
The main project objectives were to increase skills and confidence in applying participatory social marketing techniques with adolescents; as well as engaging young people in campaigns created by peers to increase their motivation to eat more healthily and be more physically active, with the intention for long-term obesity prevention.
EYTO aimed to reduce health inequalities by particularly targeting young people living in disadvantaged areas where prevalence of overweight and obesity is the highest. In the local areas involved across all partner countries, key stakeholders tended to be local authority public health teams, local youth services, local sport/exercise/healthy cooking initiatives, schools and FE colleges, universities and academic institutions.
In the UK, the project’s work was focussed in the London Borough of Islington, where it has been noted that these issues are particularly prevalent within young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. NCB recruited young campaign creators who identify as BME in order that they may reach out to their peers most at risk. Their campaign – LookUp, a healthy living movement for young people in Islington – was aimed at all young people, but involving campaign creators from diverse backgrounds ensured that the messaging, language, events and activities used would be appealing and accessible to young people disproportionately affected by the issues.
Close partnerships with Islington’s local authority youth services and public health teams were important in recruiting young people, sustaining their involvement, promoting the work locally, providing spaces to meet with young people, embedding the results of the young people’s work, and helping the young people to view their work in a broader context – shaping local health policy and sustaining their hard work by linking it to existing initiatives and strategies. Islington’s public health team also contributed funding towards the project.
The project’s final evaluation identified a number of aspects that made EYTO effective in engaging with and supporting children and young people on the topic of obesity:
- Youth-led and peer to peer approach gave young people greater control to provide reliable, relevant, positive, inspirational and accessible information.
- Young volunteers developed skills, knowledge and confidence so that they were better prepared to make decisions and take the lead.
- Raised awareness of obesity and increased motivation for healthy eating and undertaking physical activities. 90% of survey respondents rated campaigns as somewhat or very effective in encouraging them to live a healthier life.
- Provided experiences different from audiences’ daily habits. 16,823 young people across 4 countries engaged in a range of paper based, face to face and web-based activities.
Learning from EYTO demonstrates that long term sustainable changes to behaviour require multi-disciplinary collaborative working with young people, parents and professionals in the community through:
- Positive and inspirational messaging and provision of relevant and reliable information;
- Provision of accessible options for making healthy choices
- Effective targeting of vulnerable groups
- A youth-led and peer-to-peer approach, which adopts a holistic method
- A family model approach, building the capacity of parents
- Use of robust and standardised recording tools.
Evaluation findings from EYTO can be found on the project website, along with practical tools for young people who want to develop their own healthy lifestyles campaigns, and professionals supporting them.