Activities Report 2021
Public Health Rotterdam


Social Epidemiology

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The research line of Social Epidemiology is committed to contribute to one of the main challenges in public health: the reduction in the gap in life expectancy between higher and lower socioeconomic groups. We aim at a better understanding of mechanisms leading to socioeconomic inequalities in health from early childhood to old age, from one generation to the next. We focus on the role of (urban) living environments and on health behaviour. Recognizing the wickedness of health inequalities, and driven by the ambition to apply state of the art methods, we aim at contributing to evidence-based knowledge how to change the systems that drive health inequalities.


Making big data meaningful for a promising start

All children deserve a promising start. Most children are doing fine, but still too many children lead a less flourishing life due to adverse conditions in-utero and postnatally, and the structural drivers of these conditions outside the health sector. Early preventive interventions and policies can have huge, long-run benefits for individuals and society. This requires support to professionals to better identify (expectant) parents and children in vulnerable conditions and ensure more timely referral to services that meet their needs, and support to municipalities for evidence-based policy making. In this new project, vulnerability in the first 1000 days of life will be treated as the outcome of a complex system. Administrative data from across societal sectors for the entire Dutch population will be combined with advances in data sciences and insights from and active involvement of stakeholders to support prevention.

Project leader: Dr. Tanja AJ Houweling.
Program NWO Big data and promising start

Do educational reforms reduce social inequalities in health?

Despite increasing efforts to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in health, evidence of effective measures to reduce health inequalities is still limited. Social policies are considered promising for this purpose, because they may be able to lower the proportion of people exposed to disadvantageous social positions. But how can we assess their impact on socioeconomic inequalities in health, if these same policies also change the socioeconomic distribution in society? In this article, we illustrate how a health inequality impact assessment of a comprehensive school reform (i.e. increasing the age of early tracking) on educational inequalities in health will underestimate the actual effect of the policy, and use microsimulations to estimate the magnitude of this bias under various conditions. Policies that reduce social inequality are also beneficial from a health equity perspective; we should be careful not to convince ourselves otherwise.

Klassen ©HUMAN
Klassen © HUMAN