Why did the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture initiate IN FORM in 2008?
The National Action Plan “IN FORM – German national initiative to promote healthy diets and physical activity” aims to motivate people in Germany to eat better and exercise more. It focuses on preventing malnutrition, lack of exercise, overweight and related diseases on a lasting basis.
For this, everyday structures are to be put in place that encourage a healthy lifestyle – in families, at nursery, in schools, in the working world and during leisure time. People’s motivation and their sense of responsibility for their own diets and for ensuring that they have enough physical activity are also to be heightened.
Since 2008, IN FORM has supported more than 250 projects targeting all age groups, from babies to senior citizens.
What priorities will IN FORM focus on as of 2021?
The German Federal Government had the action plan evaluated in 2018. The findings were that the objectives of the action plan have been achieved, but that there is still scope to develop the initiative further. The new extended action plan that the Cabinet has now adopted is based on these findings.
Tried and tested measures are to be continued and supplemented by new activities. Here are a few examples:
- Networking offices for school and nursery meals are to be continued and new offices are to be set up for senior citizens’ diets and nutrition.
- The initiators will continue to drive forward food and nutrition education projects and to distribute recommendations to encourage physical activity.
- At national level a central contact structure to encourage physical activity is to be established – in the form of a competence centre.
There is to be a special focus on “The first 1,000 days” and on children and senior citizens. This translates into practice what was set out in the coalition agreement.
Vulnerable groups are also to be addressed to a greater extent.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on diets and physical activity have also been explored, factoring in aspects such as remote learning and working. Since people who are severely overweight and/or have chronic pre-existing conditions are more at risk of suffering a severe outcome if they become infected with COVID-19, health education and preventive health have a particularly important part to play here.
Parallel to this, “situational prevention” is to be stepped up – this means putting in place healthy, sustainable conditions at the workplace, in schools and within the community. These include healthier canteen food and grounds that encourage people to be physically active.
What exactly is new?
For “The first 1,000 days”, for instance, the following is planned:
- By summer 2021 a National Breastfeeding Strategy is to be drawn up with stakeholders. The aim is to better dovetail existing and new measures to promote the benefits of breastfeeding in the long term.
- The vitally important role played by child-minders and creches for the under-threes inside nurseries are to receive more attention, since many young children eat main meals up to five days a week in home day care or child care facilities.
- The range of physical activities open to young children and their families is to be extended, and families are to be encouraged to make more use of the services on offer. Cooperation with local partners is to make it easier to reach young parents and families.
For nurseries and schools the new activities include the following:
- IN FORM aims to ensure that the meals, that are offered in nurseries in some Länder, comply with the dietary recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE).
- As of 2026 a legal entitlement to full-day child care for primary school children is planned. Since this will mean more children eating their midday meal at school, the DGE quality standard is to be imposed nationwide on a mandatory basis to school meals.
- Paediatricians are to be addressed to a great extent, alongside pedagogical specialists, since they are important multipliers.
Examples of measures addressing senior citizens:
- The quality of food served in facilities for senior citizens and by meals on wheels services is to be improved by implementing DGE quality standards across the board.
- It is the common goal of the Federal and Länder Governments to establish networking offices for senior citizens’ diets and nutrition, in order to focus activities and advise multipliers. By the end of 2020, nine networking offices had begun work.
- To promote more physical activity, local and district exercise opportunities for people moving into the post-work phase are being tested. Strategies to encourage physical activity in care and nursing homes and in sheltered housing are also being tested.