Press Releases



The MENTUPP Consortium supports European Depression Day 2021 on October 1st, 2021, and stresses the negative effects of COVID-19 on mental health and the importance of the MENTUPP Hub to create healthy workplaces in Europe.

Key Facts

• Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health difficulties in workplace settings in the EU. • The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased – in some countries even doubled – the prevalence of anxiety and depression in the EU.

• The MENTUPP Hub helps create healthy work environments in European and Australian SMEs in the construction, health and ICT sectors.

Depression and COVID-19

According to WHO, depression affects around 40 million people and is a primary cause of suicide deaths in Europe. One in five workers in Europe and Australia reports poor mental wellbeing, stress and depression.

Depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health difficulties in workplace settings in the EU. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased workplace stress and the prevalence of anxiety and depression in Europe which even doubled in some countries. Job uncertainty, financial instability, prolonged remote work and social isolation might have long-lasting implications for worker wellbeing, satisfaction, and productivity, impacting work engagement and control. The highest rates of mental distress were reported while COVID-19 deaths escalated and severe isolation measures were put in place.

Mental Health in SMEs

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) comprise more than 90% of EU and Australian businesses. Due to their insufficient resources to implement mental health promotion, lack of expertise and knowledge, and limited budget for occupational programmes, SMEs may be at heightened risk to mental health problems. “Most SMEs have limited capacity to address mental health promotion initiatives, and to provide mental health interventions to their staff. Therefore, businesses need solutions that offer additional support, but do not increase costs to SMEs that have suffered due to COVID-19”, says Prof. Ella Arensman, Coordinator of the EUfunded “MENTUPP: Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings” project. The MENTUPP HUB for SMEs The MENTUPP consortium aims to improve mental health in the workplace by developing, implementing and evaluating an evidence-based, online tool for employers, managers and employees of SMEs in the construction, health and ICT sectors.

This online tool, the MENTUPP HUB, will contribute to:

• Reduction of absenteeism and improved productivity in the workplace;

• Earlier diagnosis of employees, managers, staff with a severe mental health disorder;

• Improved work satisfaction and healthier work environment;

• Reduction of stigma related to mental illness in the workplace.

The MENTUPP HUB is in its pilot phase and is currently being tested in nine countries in Europe and Australia. The cluster Randomised Controlled Trial of the Hub will commence in 2022.

For resources and treatment of depression, please visit: and Mates in Construction at

MENTUPP (Mental Health Promotion and Intervention in Occupational Settings) is an EU-funded international research project with the primary aim to improve mental health in the workplace by developing, implementing and evaluating a multilevel intervention targeting mental health difficulties in SMEs in the construction, health and ICT sectors. The secondary aim is to reduce depression and suicidal behaviour at the workplace. MENTUPP consists of 17 global partners with expertise in mental health, suicide prevention, depression, mental illness stigma, implementation science, as well as health economics. Learn more about MENTUPP: For further inquiries please contact:

The Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI): European Union


Published: 5th March 2021

From: Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht

Co-authored by Dr Janas Harrington, School of Public Health, UCC

An assessment of EU-level policies influencing food environments and priority actions to create healthy food environments in the EU.

Important opportunities for the European Union to create healthier food environments:

Allow a VAT exemption of 0% for all fresh fruit and vegetables, set mandatory food composition targets for all food categories, and restrict or ban the (online) marketing of foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, salt or added sugars to children and adolescents up to 19 years. These are just a few of the measures which the European Union (EU) could put forward to create healthy food environments in EU member states. The EU is missing out on opportunities to support member states to create food environments that make the healthy choice the easy choice. This is shown by research led by Utrecht University and Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. The research team recommends the EU to take immediate action.

Government policies are essential to create supportive food environments for making healthy choices. It is therefore an important tool in the fight against overweight, obesity and chronic diseases. And that is sorely needed, given the fact that in 2017 more than 50% of the adult population in the European Union (EU) was overweight of which 15% was obese. Individuals with obesity are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, and to experience a more serious disease course when infected by COVID-19.

Assessment by independent experts

Sanne Djojosoeparto and dr. Carlijn Kamphuis (Utrecht University) and dr. Maartje Poelman (Wageningen University and Research) led the study on EU-level policies influencing food environments. The study was carried out in collaboration with European partners within the JPI Policy Evaluation Network ( In their study, 29 international and independent food- and health experts assessed the strength of EU-level policies. The researchers first created an overview of EU-level policies. They summarized existing policies regarding food environments for 26 pre-specified policy indicators (e.g. on food composition, labelling, promotion, provision, retail and trade and investment) and another set of 24 indicators covering infrastructure support domains (related to leadership, governance, monitoring, funding, platforms for interaction and health-in-all-policies). Then, experts assessed for each of the indicators the strength of EU-level policies. The researchers used the Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI), an international standardized tool and process to assess policies influencing food environments.  

Few policies for healthy food environments

For the majority of the 26 policy indicators, experts rated current policies as weak (65%) or very weak/non-existent (23%). For example, there are no or very weak EU-level policies to restrict unhealthy food promotion to children on packaging. Likewise, there are no policies to increase taxes or levies on unhealthy foods. Only policies with respect to ‘food composition targets for industrially processed foods’, ‘ingredient lists and nutrient declarations’ and ‘nutrition and health claims’ were rated to be of moderate strength.

EU infrastructure support was rated somewhat better. Experts rated 63% of the 24 indicators as moderate and ‘public access to nutrition information’ was rated strong by the experts. EU infrastructure support was assessed as weak on for example ‘clear population intake targets’, ‘a comprehensive implementation plan for nutrition’, and ‘priorities for reducing health inequalities or protecting vulnerable populations’.

Integrated and comprehensive approach to create healthy food environments

Researcher Sanne Djojosoeparto says: “We would like to present this report to the European Commission so that they can improve their current policies. Already, the Farm to Fork Strategy includes some actions to improve food environments. However, our study shows that a more integrated and comprehensive approach is needed to stimulate and support EU member states in creating healthy food environments.”


This research has been published on the 5th of March 2021 in a report: The Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI): European Union. An assessment of EU-level policies influencing food environments and priority actions to create healthy food environments in the EU. Utrecht, Universiteit Utrecht, 2021.

Djojosoeparto SK, Kamphuis CBM, Vandevijvere S, Harrington JM and Poelman MP, on behalf of the JPI-HDHL Policy Evaluation Network.

For more information or enquiries: Channah Durlacher| Press and communication Wageningen Economic Research/ Social Sciences Group | 0031642514262 |

Femke Goutbeek| Senior advisor science communication| Universiteit Utrecht | Faculty of Geosciences & Pathways to Sustainability | | 0031649824694 |





The Food-EPI Ireland Report


Published: 9th November 2020 

From: School of Public Health, University College Cork                                                       

Ireland is falling behind best practice on measures to improve Irish food habits in some areas, report finds: 

  • First-of-its-kind report compares Ireland’s food policies to international standards.
  • Experts recommend no-fry-zones, taxes on unhealthy foods to subsidise healthy options.
  • Ireland is at international best practice in monitoring overweight and obesity prevalence in the population and occurrence rates for the main diet-related disease.

Ireland falls behind international best practice for implementing some of the policies needed to tackle obesity ​and other non-communicable diseases, a ground-breaking new report from University College Cork has found.

Its findings have led to calls for a reform of Ireland’s ‘food environment’ - the wide range of interconnected factors such as food production, processing, marketing, and distribution, that characterise our food system and largely determine our dietary intakes.

The first Irish Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) has highlighted how Ireland compared poorly with other countries when it comes to rolling out initiatives such as so-called ‘no fry zones’, school ​food policies, and measures aimed at reducing the marketing ​of unhealthy food to children in the media and online.

The Food-EPI Ireland study is led by Dr. Janas Harrington at UCC’s School of Public Health, and is the first of its kind to benchmark the Irish Government’s level of support for improving the healthiness of the food environment against international best practice.

The report was conducted ​as part of a wider European project, the Policy Evaluation Network (PEN) in collaboration with research groups from countries such as The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, ​Poland and New Zealand.

It compared the Irish food environment to international standards, and found that Ireland rates well in ensuring the public has access to nutritional information and key documents through freedom of information legislation.

It also found Ireland is also at international best practice in monitoring overweight and obesity prevalence in the population and occurrence rates for the main diet-related disease and its risk factors. Ireland also rated well for implementing procedures to support evidence-informed policymaking.

However, it found Ireland lags behind international best practice when it comes to: 

  • marketing unhealthy food to children
  • the implementation of ‘no fry zones’
  • the use of fiscal policies to support healthy food choices, 
  • providing support for companies to provide healthy eating options to employees
  • the roll-out of evidence-informed labelling for front-of-pack and
  • menu boards
  • the need for food composition targets/standards for processed foods. 

Four implementation gaps were identified relating to government policy on key aspects of the food environment:

  • a lack of government action on the introduction of targets for out-of-home meals,
  • failure to restrict the promotion of unhealthy foods to children on food packaging
  • no discernible progress towards establishing public sector procurement standards for food service activities to provide and promote healthy food choices,
  • failure to implement policies that encourage availability of outlets selling nutritious foods.

“The government needs to seize an opportunity to improve the diets of the Irish population, prevent obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases by investing in the kind of policies and programmes which have demonstrated success in a number of countries,” Dr Harrington said.

“The benefits are two-fold - aside from improving the health of the general population, these measures are highly cost effective, and in the long-run can help counteract the rising healthcare costs associated with obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases,” she said.

Five priority policy recommendations arising from the report calls for:

  • nutritional standards for schools including tuck shops, 
  • the establishment of a committee to monitor and evaluate food-related income support programmes for vulnerable population groups, 
  • the ring-fencing of tax on unhealth food to subsidise healthy options for disadvantaged groups in the community, 
  • the introduction of “No Fry Zone” planning legislation to prohibit the placement of unhealthy food outlets within 400m of primary and secondary schools,
  • the implementation of a comprehensive policy on nutrition standards for food and beverage provision in the public sector.

The Food-EPI is an initiative of the INFORMAS Network (International Network for Food and Obesity/NCDs Research, Monitoring and Action Support) and was conducted between January 2018 to June 2020 with a panel of independent and government public health experts. 

The expert panel consisted of 20 representatives from academia, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Safefood, HSE, and charity organisations. 


 For further information, please contact Dr Janas Harrington

Master of Public Health Programme - Government's Jobs Stimulus package


From: School of Public Health, University College Cork

Published: 28th October 2020

Master of Public Health Programme - Government's Jobs Stimulus package


The School of Public Health proudly announces that the Campus-Based Master of Public Health Programme (MPH) will open for new applicants during the current academic year under the Governments Jobs Stimulus package. The new intake of students will complete first semester modules in a separate cohort and will then join the existing 20/21 cohort in the second semester.

The Jobs Stimulus package aims to help get people back to work, upskill workers and build economic confidence while continuing to manage the impact of COVID-19. The funding has been approved to support the provision of 11,597 places on short, modular courses together with an additional 2,555 postgraduate places. Please visit and the Higher Education Authority webpages for further information on the launch.

On the announcement, Prof. Ivan Perry, Dean of the School of Public Health said:

This is an exciting opportunity for those returning to the workplace, those in employment, the formerly self-employed and recent graduates who wish to contribute to Ireland’s response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the most significant public health crisis in over 100 years. The Master of Public Health programme will provide you with the knowledge and skills to address other major global and national public health issues, including the health and societal consequences of climate change, tobacco control and the global obesity pandemic."

MPH programme

UCC’s MPH programme aims to meet the increasing demand for highly trained public health specialists and is an internationally recognised specialist training programme in public health. The programme is designed to prepare graduates to investigate, evaluate and address public health challenges, whatever their professional background. The programme will equip graduates with the core knowledge and specialised skills necessary to make a real difference in public health. This is a full-time and structured programme, delivered over 12 months. There are now a wide range of career opportunities in public health as Ireland invests in public health infrastructure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other public health issues.

To find out more about the programme click here.


Courses funded under the package will be open to returners to the workforce, those in employment, the formerly self-employed and recent graduates. All participants, with the exception of returners to the workforce, will contribute 10% of the course cost.

Eligible participants must have at least a level 8 qualification or equivalent prior to acceptance onto a course. Exact academic eligibility requirements for the MPH programme are outlined below:

  • All applicants will be required to write a 300-word statement demonstrating suitability to undertake a Master of Public Health.
  • All candidates are required to meet one of the following:
  • Possess a NFQ level 8 degree in a relevant subject area (minimum 2H1)
  • OR
  • Possess a NFQ level 9 postgraduate diploma in a relevant subject area (minimum 2H1).

Relevant subject areas are Biological Sciences, Medical and Health Sciences, Public Health and Social Sciences.

Eligible Applicants must also be ordinarily resident in Ireland and must meet the nationality and EU residency rules as aligned to Springboard as detailed here.


The MPH programme has developed and maintained strong links with the Master of Dental Public Health and the MA Health and Society programmes within UCC. Both programmes will also open for new applicants under the Jobs Stimulus package.

On the announcement, Prof. Ivan Perry, Dean of the School of Public Health said:

“The MA in Health & Society is based on collaboration with the Master of Public Health (MPH) in UCC's School of Public Health. This is an exciting collaboration between two academic programmes focused on the societal determinants of health and wellbeing, both of which are now open for new applicants under the Governments Jobs Stimulus package."

Don Ross, Department of Philosophy UCC, said:

“The importance of the MA in Health and Society lies in its multidisciplinary nature. By welcoming students from a variety of medical, philosophical, and social science backgrounds, it allows for a diverse group to learn to make a difference in the practice and management of health—something we all understand the significance of today.”

School of Public Health

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