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HBCD Research profile


'Healthy behaviours for all - powered by science"

Our common goal

The common goal of us is to create, disseminate and exchange knowledge on health-related behaviours, in particular the mechanisms shaping these behaviours and their impact on health, and on strategies to promote healthy behaviours. In doing so, we aim to contribute to reducing the burden of chronic diseases and related functional limitations and mortality, in the population in general, and in high risk groups in particular.

The societal problem

Chronic diseases - such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer - account for most of the burden of disease in high income countries (and increasingly also in low and middle income countries). These diseases are largely preventable by reducing unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, physical inactivity, excessive sedentary behaviour, unhealthy dietary behaviour, unhealthy sleep behaviour and substance abuse. These health-related behaviours and their clustering are shaped by a complex interplay of factors, where conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, interact with individual related factors. Promoting healthy behaviours therefore requires multifactorial interventions in the complexity of real-life settings, addressing the environment and the individual within that environment. The multifactorial approach to understand and promote healthy behaviours, including biological, psychological, social, economic and political factors, requires collaboration between a broad range of disciplines.

Our research themes

Our multidisciplinary research is clustered around two themes:

1.       Understanding health-related behaviours, their impact on health and functioning, and their distribution across the population.

2.       Development, implementation and evaluation of interventions aimed at promoting healthy behaviours in the complexity of real life settings.

Specific attention is given to groups with a high risk of developing chronic diseases, including lower socio-economic groups, older adults, and ethnic minority populations. This research is conducted:

  • in relation to a broad range of health-related behaviours - i.e. dietary behaviour, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep, smoking, substance abuse;
  • in relation to a broad range of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, as well as related outcomes such as quality of life;
  • in a variety of populations across the life course; and
  • in a variety of settings including cities, communities, families, health care, schools and workplaces.

Our approach

Our research is interdisciplinary, integrating insights and knowledge from a broad range of disciplines, including medical sciences, epidemiology, psychology, sociology, human movement science, complexity science, and public administration. As researchers, we closely collaborate with actors in public health policy and practice, such as the Municipal Health Service in Amsterdam. When possible, we apply a participatory approach, involving end-users in the development of interventions and research.

Our researchers

Our program brings together around 250 researchers, of which 150 PhD students, from four different institutions: AMC, VUmc, UvA and VU. Within these institutions, our researchers are mainly based in the following departments:

  • AMC: dept. of Public Health; General Practice; Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics; and Clinical Informatics.
  • VUmc: dept. of Public and Occupational Health and dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics.
  • VU: dept. of Health Sciences and dept. of Biological Psychology.
  • UvA: dept. of Communication Science, research group Health Communication.