Research areas

  • RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine - Nutrition, Obesity, Prevention, Food Policy, Food Systems

Research interests

My research focuses on public health, in particular on the prevention of obesity and non-communicable disease (NCD's), with a focus on food policy and food systems using a whole-of-systems approach. I am highly involved in both science and policy and driven to have a high societal impact with my work as shown by my involvement in national and international commissions such as the Lancet Commission on Obesity. 

My PhD (June 2012) was on the feasibility and effectiveness of food pricing strategies on food purchasing behaviour (e.g., the effectiveness of a sugar tax, fruit and vegetable, subsidy, etc.). I conducted several randomized controlled trials testing different food pricing strategies, both in real Dutch supermarkets and in a 3-D Virtual Supermarket that I developed during my PhD. I won the VU University Prize for the PhD with the highest societal impact for my PhD research and my PhD research formed the basis for an advisory report on the application of food taxes and subsisides to the Dutch Ministry of Health. 

After completing my PhD, I worked for approximately 6 years as a postdoc/senior researcher at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), where I applied a whole-of-food systems approach to public health nutrition research. I did this, for example, by linking public health nutrition and climate change and by studying food value chains to identify intervention opportunities for public health. I believe that it is crucial for public health researchers to gain a good understanding of the food system (how does it operate) to be able to find ways to improve it and make it healthier. I received a Heart Foundation Fellowship (NZ$225K for 3 years) and a Health Research Council Research Grant (NZ$150K) for this research. During my time in New Zealand, I also was a Fellow on the Lancet Commission on Obesity, Undernutrition and Climate Change and was selected to participate in the International Council for Science Young Scientists Food Futures Network and the FAO Meeting Urban Food Needs Initiative. 

Currently, I work in the department of Public & Occupational Health of Amsterdam UMC as an Assistant Professor. My research focuses on food systems;  system dynamics and the prevention of overweight and obesity. One of the main projects I work on is the LIKE (Lifestyle Innovations based on youths’ Knowledge and Experience) project (lead by Prof Karien Stronks). LIKE aims to develop an innovative, accessible and sustainable approach to promote healthy habits in 10-14 years olds in multi-ethnic lower SES-groups in the Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam-East) using a participatory system dynamics approach. More specifically, we develop, implement and evaluate innovative interventions at the level of family, school, neighbourhood and city, as an integrated programme, based upon a detailed insight into the characteristics of the population at stake. Scientific innovation of strategies  go hand in hand with their implementation, evaluation and dissemination. To achieve this, children and key stakeholders act as co-creators and actively participate in the development, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of an adaptive action programme. LIKE works in close collobaration with the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach

In addition to LIKE, I am also involved in:

- The Supreme Nudge project looking at nudging and pricing interventions in Dutch supermarkets.

- Research relating to the City Deal looking at options for local governments to regulate the food environment. 

- A project with the City of Amsterdam looking into how we can apply systems thinking in policy development for local governments to reduce health inequalties. 

- A Wellcome Trust project looking at interventions that both impact on public health and environmental sustainability. 

- Charge your Brainzzz, a ZonMW project on using a systems approach relating to sleep quality

I am active in science communication in national and internatioal media, for example by recent involvement in the Dutch television programme Pointer; interview for the guide of the Consumentenbond; a blog for the Australian tax Policy website, and previously for the Guardian, New Zealand Television and pieces in de Volkskrant, Trouw, NOS journaal, etc. 

See for example:

Interview for Pointer 

UN Policy Brief

Article for VoedingNu 

Groenten moeten goedkoper | NOS

Interview for Radio Netherlands Worldwide 

Blog for Australian Tax Policy




Public Health

Research output

  1. The ENCOMPASS framework: a practical guide for the evaluation of public health programmes in complex adaptive systems

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  2. Understanding obesity-related behaviors in youth from a systems dynamics perspective: The use of causal loop diagrams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  3. The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

  4. The effect of food price changes on consumer purchases: a randomised experiment

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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