The Healthy lifestyle for low literate teenagers (LIFTS) project has been awarded 1.4 million euros from NWO-KIC on 23 March 2023. LIFTS focuses on promoting a sustainable healthy lifestyle among low-literate teenagers in practical education using accessible and engaging technologies such as games. Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University, Eindhoven University of Technology and some 20 civil society partners, accounting for the remaining EUR 0.3 million, are working together in this. The project will run from September 2023 to September 2028.
About 7.2% of Dutch young people have a mild intellectual disability. They struggle with learning difficulties and often grow up in a low socio-economic environment. This makes making healthy choices extra challenging, while health problems in this group are increasing. Kirsten Verkooijen, LIFTS project leader and associate professor of Health & Society at WUR: “With this project, we want to contribute to a healthy future for these young people and their social environment. We know that there is a lot to gain in this target group. In this project, together with all stakeholders, we will look for practical solutions. By effectively using innovative health technology that matches the needs, wishes and perception of these young people.”
The project team is setting up four living labs around four Practice Schools. Here, participatory research takes place with and for practical school pupils, together with teachers, carers, designers, policymakers and researchers. Verkooijen: “We focus on two pillars here: How can we best involve these young people and their parents? And which technologies help them make healthy choices? Think, for example, of health apps that provide personalised feedback in the form of a game.”
The combination of participatory research and hard technologies is unique and crucial, according to Verkooijen. “Technology alone is not going to work if it does not involve people, their behaviour and the environment. What we see is that this group of young people often falls by the wayside because mainstream (school) provision does not match their needs. With more insight into their environment and motivations, we can develop effective solutions.”
To enable co-creation of technological innovation, knowledge, societal and industrial partners pull together. The core academic partners consist of a multidisciplinary research team from the Institute for Preventive Health (I4PH), part of the EWUU alliance (Eindhoven Technical University, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and Utrecht University Medical Centre). They contribute knowledge on participatory research, behaviour and technologies. Societal partners bring their practical experience. Involved are four practical schools, the Sectorrraad praktijkonderwijs, Stichting Special Heroes Nederland, NOC*NSF, Kenniscentrum Sport & Bewegen, InnoSportLab Sport & Beweeg, Trimbos Institute, Voedingscentrum, Aptus, Dutch Rose Media BV, GGD Gelderland Zuid and GGD regio Utrecht.