WELCOME to the December 2019 CHRODIS PLUS Internal Newsletter

Season’s Greetings

The year end is on our doorstep and it is time to reflect on what we as CHRODIS+ partners have achieved in 2019. We have closed a fantastic year and contributed to the wellbeing and improved life of patients across Europe, with the Conference in Budapest being the highlight of the year. We thank you all for being part of our community and for working hand-in-hand with each other to make our joint action even more successful.

Among other things, this newsletter offers you a great article on how to keep your physical and mental balance during the Christmas period as well as exciting reads on three recent CHRODIS+ events, including the article about our policy dialogue held in the European Parliament discussing the topic of employers improving the working conditions of employees. To bring this event as close as possible to you we have shot several short videos that are accessible here and also in the newsletter.

Greetings from your CHRODIS PLUS Communications Team:


Zuzana Matlonova  

Zoltan Albert Aszalos

Eva Csecsodi

Mrs. Claus’ seven secrets

Authored by Eeva Rantala and Jaana Lindström, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare

Skills for sensible Christmas celebration

Some years ago, Mrs. Claus discovered a worrying trend. Santa had started to put on weight. Specifically, the weight gain seemed to be linked with the annual holiday season starting from the end of November and lasting to mid-January.

On second thoughts, this was no wonder. Besides involving rush, a great deal of stress, and too little sleep, the period is packed with festivities around delicious food. Considering Santa’s physically and mentally demanding shift work, which requires agility and velocity, as well as working in confined spaces, Mrs. Claus found the development alarming.

An occupational wellbeing survey conducted among Santa’s employees in Korvatunturi (the home fell of Santa in Finnish Lapland) revealed that the situation had started to influence them as well. The flying reindeer experienced their work as increasingly burdening, and reported of emerging musculoskeletal symptoms.

Mrs. Claus could see that the situation bothered Santa himself, especially after one of the loud-mouthed elves had commented on the difficulty of balancing the top-heavy sledge.

To help Santa stay fit and able to perform his invaluable job also in the future, Mrs. Claus decided to utilize the remote listening devices that normally are used to collect information on who is naughty and who is nice. She tuned into seminars all over the world where experts on nutrition and behavioural sciences discussed, and came up with some simple, yet efficient practices to help not only Santa but the entire work community of Korvatunturi to feel better.

In this Newsletter, we have the privilege to share some of Mrs. Claus’ proof of concept tips on how to fully enjoy the feasts of the festival season, yet avoid the discomfort of overeating.

  1. Well planned is half done

Before heading for grocery shopping, Mrs. Claus takes a few moments to make a meal plan for the following days and lists needed ingredients. Following the shopping list helps her to focus on what she really needs while navigating along the aisles of the supermarket. Mrs. Claus also avoids entering the supermarket hungry. Having a light snack, such as a fruit, prior to shopping helps her resist unnecessary impulse purchases.

  1. Veggies − more is more

The principle number one Mrs. Claus follows while shopping is to make sure that the shopping trolley becomes filled with plenty of season’s fruit and vegetables. She knows by experience that the more they have them at home, the more they end up eating them. The great thing about fruit and vegetables is that one can freely feast on them, yet avoid feeling bloated and uncomfortably full afterwards. Furthermore, they bring colour to and freshen up otherwise sturdy Christmas cooking.

  1. Goodies − quality over quantity

Mrs. Claus admits herself and Santa to have quite some sweet tooth. Thus, the confectionary aisle is her week spot. Nowadays, two rules guide her choices: 1) stick to less varieties, and 2) favour smaller packages. She has learned that it is easier to eat in moderation when there are fewer options and a limited amount available. Paradoxically, buying smaller quantities has actually taught her and Santa to appreciate and enjoy more what they have. Smaller packages might be relatively more expensive than the economy and multi packs, but Mrs. Claus keeps reminding herself that buying more for a relatively cheaper price does not exactly equal saving money.

  1. We are what we eat and we eat what we see

Having treats in sight and within reach is a guaranteed way to end up grazing them all the while. Since Mrs. Claus loves food decorating, she solved this challenge by replacing her Christmassy confectionery assortments with arrangements of colourful fresh fruit and plain nuts and seeds. Besides pleasing her eyes, these Christmas decorations are a useful way to ingest some extra vitamins during the dark period of the year, almost without noticing. To her great surprise, even their elves, who are typically not very fond of veggies, tend to nibble them when they are served in a readily eatable form.

Another thing Mrs. Claus has learned is that it is quite all right not to have food and drinks in sight all the time. It actually helps shifting focus on enjoying the company of others. Breaks from eating also give teeth and digestion time to rest − which they need just like any of us.

  1. Composing a meal cleverly

When at a dinner table, a handy tip for composing a balanced meal is to start by filling half of the plate with vegetables, and to continue to main courses only after that. Mrs. Claus has noticed that simply changing the placement of dishes on the serving table has increased the proportion of vegetables on Santa’s plate. Yet, he has never complained of feeling hungry after having emptied his plate.

When there are separate plates for salads and main courses, the same can be done by choosing two smaller-sized plates instead of having a small one for salads and a large one for main courses.

  1. Full pleasure out of less

Another tip Mrs. Claus has to give is related to concentrating on eating. She admits she and Santa had developed a habit of reading children’s wish lists and letters during their meals, and used to gobble up food without even noticing what they swallowed until they had eaten too much. 

Nowadays, before attacking their meals, Mr. and Mrs. Claus take a moment to look at what they have on their plates. They enjoy the composition and colours of the meal, and take a deep breath to sense the delicious aromas. When trying the food, they focus on sensing how the food feels like in mouth. What is its structure like, and how does it sound like when chewing it? They try to chew slowly and carefully to enjoy all the tastes complementing one another, and remember to breathe while doing it. Between mouthfuls, they set the cutlery down to enable themselves fully focus on eating with all senses. After swallowing, they take another deep breathe, sense how long the taste of the food stays in mouth before it disappears, and have a sip of water. Only after that, they have the next mouthful.

The lesson Mrs. Claus has learned after adopting this more mindful way of eating is that she actually needs less to feel herself satiated. Even Santa has said that mindlessly swallowing delicious Christmas foods would be an insult to her cooking, not to mention the sheer waste of valuable ingredients.

  1. Focusing on others and being together

Though enjoying good food is one of the highlights of Christmas, Mrs. Claus points out that a refreshing walk outdoors, playing with elves, listening to Christmas carols, and enjoying the company of others makes the food taste even better.

Lastly, Mrs. Claus wishes to remind all readers of an old wisdom: at the end of the day, what counts is not what you eat between Christmas and Epiphany, but what you eat between Epiphany and Christmas.

Folks from Korvatunturi wish all CHRODIS+ Newsletter readers calm and relaxing Christmas time and all the best for the New Year 2020!

CHRODIS PLUS: Direct benefit to thousands of patients across Europe 

CHRODIS PLUS presented at EU High-Level conference in Brussels on health challenges  

30th of September 2019, Brussels at the Square, Mont des Arts

More than 350 participants from all over Europe took part at this high level event hosted by CHAFEA and attended by high level representatives including European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis.

The nature of the event was focused on the results of the current and previous EU Health Programmes, highlighting achievements in fighting cancer, enhancing health security in support of the free movement of persons, innovation in delivering care and access to better care and especially in the field of rare diseases through the European Reference Networks (ERNs).

Our delegation was quite numerous and our Scientific Coordinator Dr. Rokas Navickas delivered a presentation focusing on the impact of our actions and activities on EU citizens. Currently, our project has direct impact on almost 8000 EU citizens and the figure is rising as the project is rolling out into its last year. 

All the successful achievements are being featured in a booklet on “success stories”, developed specifically for the conference. These success stories are just a selection of the hundreds of projects and actions that were made possible through the third EU health programme, which has been working since 2014 to improve public health in Europe. The story of Chrodis+ can be found on page 14.

Should you be interested in the full  programme of the event, click here.

Slovakia to combat cardiovascular and metabolic diseases with a new strategy and action plans

Policy dialogue in Slovakia

Cardiovascular diseases and cancer account for almost three-quarters of deaths in the Slovak Republic. Having realized the need for a new strategy, a policy dialogue titled “Collaborative approach in Control and Prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders” was held on 29 October 2019 at the Ministry of Health in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The dialogue happened under the auspices of the Secretary of State professor Spanik who pointed out that in Slovakia heart diseases and stroke are the leading causes of death, followed by lung and colorectal cancers. Experts agreed on the need to support health promotion across the broader health system, increase the use of clinical preventive services, provide services that extend care outside the clinical setting and implement interventions that reach whole populations. For this purpose, the policy dialogue focused on building a collaborative approach in cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. 

After the policy dialogue, we interviewed two of our experts to get a bit more insight on the event and its expected impact. 

assoc. prof. Dr. Daniela Kallayova, PhD., MPH

Daniela is professionally qualified in public health and public health research with a focus on epidemiology, health promotion and health impact assessment. She currently works at the Ministry of Health as senior officer responsible for health promotion and prevention with focus on non-communicable diseases. Her rich working portfolio includes participation at various international projects and her studies abroad. 


Monika Hurna, M.D.

Monika is a medical doctor by her background. Currently she works at the Department of Health at the Ministry of Health in Slovakia. 



Can you briefly describe the rationale behind the conduction of this policy dialogue?

Daniela Kallayova: Health policies and plans have a better chance of success when there is a real policy dialogue. Policy dialogues can contribute to evidence-informed decision-making. However, they are often understood and applied in different ways by different people. In the case of Slovakia there is a need to build an appropriate mechanisms to recognize the policy dialogue as a useful tool for health policy development.  

The policy dialogue has created an opportunity to solve communication gaps and misunderstandings between stakeholders when discussing the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases.

Can you describe the core and flow of the policy dialogue in Slovakia? 

Monika Hurna: The policy dialogue brought, among other things, consensus on the need to draw up a National Cardiology Program in terms of multi-departmental cooperation. The interest of experts also met in strengthening the design of a healthy diet for the citizens and thus strengthen the prevention of obesity, metabolic disorders, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, etc. No less important is the support and development of physical activity, e.g. in training physical education teachers to train their colleagues on how to exercise properly and effectively with children in schools, as well as an interest in increasing the number of physical education lessons for pupils. Experts agree on the need to draft the mechanisms to create active citizen / patient co-responsibility in order to prevent complications from metabolic syndromes.

What are the next steps to follow after this policy dialogue? 

Monika Hurna: Participants welcomed the idea of ​​conception of the National Health Promotion and Healthy Lifestyle Program, which should include 3 pillars: metabolic, oncological and cardiovascular. It should also include childcare at kindergartens and primary schools, underlining the relevance of addressing the issue of funding and introducing measurable outputs from the program in question.

How do you evaluate the overall flow of the policy dialogue content wise? 

Daniela Kallayova: The overall flow of the policy dialogue was appropriate to the participants’ perspectives.  It was a reflective process that involved people from different professional groups who discussed a common issue.

Do you believe that this policy dialogue pushed the topic of collaborative approach in cardiovascular and metabolic disorders forward? 

Daniela Kallayova: I believe that the policy dialogue can contribute to the collaborative approach in the future and if the policy dialogue was not recognized as an isolated policy event by stakeholders. We need to build capacities for the policy dialogue contributing to evidence informed decision making. 

How might the patient or general public benefit from the result/action plan that will follow?

Monika Hurna: If the issues discussed in the policy dialogue are successfully translated into concrete results in practice, these measures should benefit both the health of Slovak citizens and patients and ultimately could cut health care costs by raising citizens’ awareness on healthy lifestyles, good eating and movement habits, thereby reducing the risk and incidence of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and hence reducing the financial costs needed to diagnose and treat these diseases.

Employers to improve the working conditions of employees with chronic diseases

Chrodis Plus actions on multiple fronts: summing up the EU Policy Dialogue on Employment and Chronic Conditions, and sharing experiences of Alstom, Intesa Sanpaolo and Nestlé Italy from testing the Chrodis Plus Toolbox

Zoltan, the head of our communications team goes regularly to the gym at his workplace at Semmelweis University in Budapest to keep fit so he can easily sit through the day by his computer at work. He works out so not to become one of those Europeans (roughly 25% of the working populations), who suffer from a long-standing problem which restricts his daily activities.

Chronic diseases are everyone’s business and many of us will suffer from at least one chronic condition in our life. The Chrodis Plus policy dialogue on Employment and Chronic Conditions held on 12 November 2019 in Brussels aimed to identify the practical steps for an EU wide policy to support the employment of people with chronic diseases and to address the impact of chronic diseases on the employment sector. The policy dialogue came out as a response to the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions in Europe’s working age population underlining the need for a European strategy towards inclusion, integration and reintegration of employees in the workplace as well as the development of actions to support workers’ health and wellbeing.

The leader of Work Package 8 Dr Matilde Leonardi who delivered her speech at the EU Parliament expressed the importance of human factor in all the work that is done: ‘Actions are done by people – to create momentum you need committed people. The advantage of the joint action is that committed people work together towards the same goal.’  She then, along with Jaana Lindström, Finnish co-leader of Work Package 8, and Eeva Rantala has introduced the Chrodis Plus Toolbox that has been developed with the goal of creating a common European language fostering health in employment. It includes 2 tools:

  • the Training tool for managers on inclusiveness and workability for people with chronic conditions
  • the Toolkit for workplaces – fostering employees’ wellbeing, health and work participation

The Toolbox helps organizations on a practical level to create an inclusive workplace for those living with chronic diseases and health promotion and disease prevention in the workplace for everyone. There are multiple organizations both in the private and public sector that are already testing the tools in more than ten European countries.

Alstom, Italy –a company that develops and markets integrated systems that provide the sustainable foundations for the future of transportation offering a complete range of equipment and services, from high-speed trains, to customized services, infrastructure, digital mobility solutions and more – is testing the Toolkit for workplaces in its Italian branch and they were happy to share their initial experiences with us:

What made you decide to test the Toolkit?

Alstom Chrodis Workgroup: We decided to use it because as soon as we saw the Tool we realized it is excellent on all aspects for guiding our thoughts and to give birth to new ideas.

How are your initial experiences?

Alstom Chrodis Workgroup: Working with the tool has been highly appreciated, in fact we formed a work group, composed by different functions (HR, EHS, Quality, Safety). We managed to analyze our company thanks to  the “Toolkit” guide.  This gave us the opportunity to share experiences and to discuss some approaches and concrete actions: for instance sharing some information about the effects that diet has on health and organizing internal workshops about organizational and cognitive ergonomics.

What social, financial and/or other benefits are you seeking to have by applying this toolkit?

Alstom Chrodis Workgroup: We want to improve well-being at work of employees and to feel we work in a company which succeeds in taking care of this. This brings also social benefits over the financial benefits. It is very relevant for us to improve  the inclusion and participation at work of people with chronic diseases and we are trying to improve the workplace so it favors a better daily working life.

Two other companies on the other hand are testing the Training tool for managers, among them Intesa Sanpaolo one of the top banking groups in Europe:

What made you decide to test the Training tool?

Intesa Sanpaolo: We are aware that it is important to manage disability and illness in a managerial key. This is because in the coming years, as the average age of workers increases, there will be an increase in people with at least one chronic disease and it is necessary to be prepared to deal with this reality, even more so in our company where almost 44% of employees are over 50 years old. Our choice was to approach disability management by creating a cross-functional Group dedicated to disability management, coordinated by the Welfare Office and also to address this issue in the constant constructive dialogue with trade union organizations. In this context, it is therefore essential for us to plan ahead and to seek in an innovative way new points of equilibrium between the logics of productivity, sustainability of work and social justice by providing full awareness to managers who are the first to promote and support inclusivity and real cultural change. We have therefore considered taking part in the Chrodis+ pilot test as an interesting opportunity to take part in a European initiative and a tool to promote a mindset and a culture about inclusion, involving our managers in the first place. People for Intesa Sanpaolo are the engine button. The tools that Chrodis+ will allow us to adopt will help us to implement actions for the well-being in the company and create an environment that enables people to self-realize and express themselves to the best of their skills and abilities.

How are your initial experiences?

Intesa Sanpaolo: 60 group managers have been involved in the project, selected from different structures (small, medium and large), who represent the whole Country. Many of them, concluded the testing activities, have thanked us for the opportunity and have given their availability to continue the collaboration and declared themselves proud that their company takes important steps in this area.

What social, financial and/or other benefits are you seeking to have by applying this tool?

Intesa Sanpaolo: Intesa Sanpaolo promotes the well-being of its people, as also stated in the latest Business Plan 2018 – 2021. We are confident that a conscious approach to the management of “fragility” of our employees has in fact several benefits. We are talking about an increase of the productivity, as demonstrated by the data on smart working that we have adopted in different structures since 2015, and the reduction of costs for absenteeism and illness. But not only that. Among the important objectives of the company we underline the importance of being a reference model at a global level in the commitment to sustainability, inclusivity and social responsibility of doing business. An innovative and responsible company is therefore attentive to the effects and social implications of its work.

Nestlé Italy, branch of the Swiss multinational company producing food and drink, is also actively testing the Training tool for managers on inclusiveness and workability for people with chronic conditions. They said that ‘for years we’ve been working to create and promote a better place to work for all our colleagues. This includes modern and comfortable spaces, as well as a strong program addressed to support our employees’ health and wellbeing in their daily activities in Nestlé. We offer many services such as nutrition programs with a healthy and balanced diet, sport physicians, psychological support and many others. Every year we are committed to improve this program. We decided to adopt this Training tool for managers because it will help us to achieve another goal in our health strategy: dealing with prevention and awareness.’

Elia Boccone was one of the managers chosen for the pilot test. His experience in using the tool was very positive. He said: ‘this tool helped me to be more integrated and connect with my team. I really appreciated that the company gave me the chance to monitor and take care of my people with an innovate tool. In our daily job we are often under pressure and having the opportunity to understand immediately my people’ needs and issues is crucial.’

The implementation of this tool on inclusiveness and workability showed many benefits, both for the people and for the company. The big one involves social aspects, colleagues feel more included and empowered in the company. Elia told us that ‘people themselves were happy to realize how the company was working to increase our managers’ awareness on risks or issues. The company itself benefits by this project. A safer and better workplace, in fact, improves employees’ performance in terms of productivity and creativity. And this is a big result for everybody.’

As a conclusion let us share some thoughts on why we think these achievements are crucially important. Our Scientific coordinator, Rokas Navickas said it all during his presentation in the EU Parliament: In terms of health, ‘Europe has never been more fragile than it is today, so the Joint Action is a way to bring us together for common goals and gains for our communities. When so much is known and there are so many good practices, it becomes a matter of prioritization of what we do and where do we start. We have to overcome the evidence-practice gap (gains from known best practices can be greater than generating new evidence).’ As he underlined, none of our work can be sustainable without working with policymakers and without the commitment of all relevant stakeholders.

To find out more on this topic, check our website and watch the speeches from the policy dialogue as well as the short interviews we made with key participants.


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