EPODE is a coordinated, capacity-building approach aimed at reducing childhood obesity through a societal process in which local environments, childhood settings, and family norms are directed and encouraged to facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyles in children (i.e. the enjoyment of healthy eating, active play, and recreation). The primary EPODE target groups are children from 0 to 12 years old and their families. Over the past 20 years, EPODE has developed a proven methodology to help prevent childhood obesity. The programs based on the EPODE are long-term, and aimed at changing the obesogenic environment that lead to unhealthy behaviours. The EPODE methodology takes a positive approach to achieving healthy lifestyle habits and does not stigmatize any culture, individual, food habit, or behaviour. In addition, messages and actions are tailored to the population based on needs and demographic to ensure the program is effective and relevant.
It is important to reverse trends toward increasing obesity by interventions at the community level. The EPODE approach promotes the involvement of multiple stakeholders at central level, with endorsements from ministries and support from health groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private partners. A Central Coordination Team (CCT) leads the implementation of programs at community level, by training and coaching local project managers. The CCT employs social marketing to develop messages, actions, and tools aimed at influencing social and physical environments. A local project manager aims to mobilize local stakeholders (teachers, local NGOs, catering services, etc.) to form a steering committee.
The EPODE methodology has shown encouraging results in preventing childhood obesity in France and Belgium and has reduced the socioeconomic gap in obesity prevalence in France. The EPODE methodology has now been implemented in a number of countries worldwide, and provides a valuable model that may be applicable to other lifestyle-related diseases.
A more in depth publication of the EPODE methodology may be read here.