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Dolors Corella.

Departament de Medicina Preventiva UV, Delegació de Sostenibilitat UV i CIBEROBN


At the University of Valencia, we have promoted various initiatives for responsible consumption. Among them, we want to highlight those focused on healthy and sustainable food consumption, which promotes knowledge of the healthy properties of food but also its characteristics related to sustainability: cultivation methods, origin, seasonality, carbon footprint, water footprint, other ecological footprints, socio-economic impact, cultural dimension, reduction of plastic use, energy efficiency, waste minimization and impact on the different SDGs. In this way, responsible consumption of food can be promoted while minimizing its negative impact on health, society and the planet.


Generalities of the promotion of healthy and sustainable responsible food consumption at the UV

UV Diet is one of the main lifestyle factors that are associated with health-disease phenotypes (Opie et al, 2017; Fernández-Villa et al, 2019; O’Connor et al, 2020; Molina-Montes et al, 2021; Colleluori et al, 2021).

We will call “phenotype” each of the health variables that we are going to analyze. For example, we consider final disease phenotypes those that imply a diagnosis of the disease already manifested, among them we can point out myocardial infarction, stroke, cancer of different locations (breast, colon, pancreas, stomach, esophagus, ovary, etc.), dementia, pneumonia, type 2 diabetes, etc. On the other hand, we will consider intermediate disease phenotypes those manifestations that usually precede the final phenotypes and that imply a relevant risk factor for the subsequent development of the final phenotype. As an example we can mention as intermediate phenotypes the high concentrations of total cholesterol, associated with more risk of infarction; or high plasma glucose concentrations as a risk factor for diabetes; or high blood pressure as a risk factor for stroke.


Both at the level of intermediate phenotypes and at the level of final phenotypes, there are multiple studies that indicate that the pattern of diet consumed can imply an increase in risk for all or some of them, while other types of diets, not only would be neutral without increasing the risk, but would also have a protective effect (Opie et al, 2017; O’Connor et al, 2020; Molina-Montes et al, 2021; Colleluori et al, 2021).

Despite the fact that there are many types of diets and the consideration of which one is the healthiest varies as more knowledge is obtained ((Katz et al, 2014), (for example the shift from the recommendations of a very low-fat diet for cardiovascular prevention, to another type of diet less low in fat and richer in fresh unprocessed foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, accompanied also by nuts and vegetable oils such as olive oil), we can affirm that currently the Mediterranean diet is a pattern of diet recognized by science among the healthiest in the world (Dinu et al, 2018; Dinu et al, 2020).

At the same time, another challenge that exists worldwide is to know not only the healthy characteristics of diets, but also all aspects related to their sustainability and thus promote a healthy and sustainable responsible consumption of food and dietary patterns (Smetana et al, 2019; Bassaganya-Riera et al, 2021)


Although we will later develop in more detail the concept of sustainability and its particularities at the level of food systems, we do want to mention now that pioneering researchers in the Mediterranean diet very soon showed that the Mediterranean diet is not only one of the healthiest diets, but also one of the most sustainable (Dernini et al, 2015; Berry, 2019).


Taking into account that the Mediterranean diet meets these requirements of being the healthiest and at the same time more sustainable food consumption pattern and that the Mediterranean diet pattern is being lost among the students and also in other university staff, several of the actions carried out in the UV Sustainability Delegation, Within which is the so-called "Healthy University", they have been focused on the promotion of the Mediterranean pattern of consumption of healthy and sustainable foods


What is healthy college and what activities on the subject are carried out?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing its efforts on "health promotion." This is crucial to improve the sustainability of health systems, which are currently more based on healing. According to the Ottawa charter, health promotion can be defined as "the process that enables people to increase control over and improve their health." It is therefore a question of acting at the level of the determinants of health to improve it and avoid or minimize the risk of disease. To promote health, health education and the healthy environments approach are fundamental.

Among the different environments of health promotion, the University presents a magnificent opportunity to do so, including both the people who work in it and among the student body. Universities, in addition to being professional training centers and research centers, are environments where environmental, organizational and personal factors that affect health and well-being interact. A healthy University must be an environment that protects and favors health, promoting knowledge and skills aimed at workers, including both teaching and research staff (PDI) and administrative and service personnel (PAS), and students (undergraduate and graduate).

For this, the University has to provide the necessary tools and infrastructures. In addition, universities, while implementing strategies to improve lifestyles for those who study and work in them, can contribute to these improvements transcending university spaces and reaching the rest of society, thus positively affecting the promotion of the health of people inside and outside university campuses (Martínez-Riera et al, 2018).


In Spain, the so-called Spanish Network of Healthy Universities (REUS) was created in September 2008 with the aim of strengthening the role of universities as entities promoting the health and well-being of their students, their staff, and society as a whole. Recently, in 2020, the name of REUS has been changed to the Spanish Network of Health Promoting Universities, adopting the acronym REUPS. The University of Valencia has been part of the REUPS since 2011.


In addition to the REUSP, of which the 5 public universities of the Valencian Community are part, these universities are integrated into the so-called Valencian Network of Healthy Public Universities. The constitution of this network was carried out in 2014, forming part of it: the Polytechnic University of Valencia, the Jaume I University of Castellón, the University of Alicante, the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, and the University of Valencia. The objective of the creation of this Valencian network was to provide agility the objectives of REUS in the public universities of the Valencian Community, they already have in common not only the characteristics of their students, but also the management structures and geographical proximity, so that they can carry out more dynamic actions for the promotion of Health in the University.


The actions carried out by the Healthy University at the University of Valencia are aimed at promoting health, prioritizing a different theme each year, but always having as a basis of actions the promotion of healthy and sustainable eating in a transversal way. Both through participation in the REUPS and in the Valencian Network of Healthy Public Universities, actions are carried out to promote fruit consumption, since it has been detected that it is very low among students. In the different participating faculties, free access is provided to different types of seasonal and proximity fruits and information is provided on their basic characteristics, their healthy and sustainable responsible consumption. Several Guides have been developed that we will discuss later.


The Valencian Network of Healthy Public Universities, commemorates since its constitution the so-called day of the Valencian Network of Healthy Public Universities. It focuses on the third Thursday of November, varying the day according to the calendar of each year. The representatives of each university agree on a theme to promote health and a motto and different thematic actions are carried out such as dissemination, interventions, conferences, related practical activities, participation in the media, etc. The first year of the network's constitution, the theme focused on healthy eating, following other years with physical activity, sleep habits, eye health, care of the planet, emotional well-being after the COVID-19 pandemic, smoking, etc. Fair trade is also present in all these activities.


In addition to these activities carried out within the framework of the networks, we are focusing efforts on making food from dispensing machines healthier and more sustainable, incorporating fair trade products. In the same way, we are working on improving the menus of the cafeterias of the University of Valencia to improve their healthy, sustainable character and that incorporate fair trade products as far as possible.