Current research

Working together for healthy children in Amsterdam. We do this together with Amsterdam universities and hospitals within the Sarphati Amsterdam research institute.

Diseases of affluence form a growing threat for Amsterdam youth. The scientific knowledge currently available is insufficient to reverse this threat. Sarphati Amsterdam is focusing on research into health disparities in relation to the social and physical environment. The research studies should help translate this knowledge into interventions that focus on reducing health disparities in Amsterdam.

The Sarphati Amsterdam research results aim to offer unique insights into promoting healthy growth and development among Amsterdam youth.  For instance, the research can explore why some children have an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese, the consequences of this and possible interventions.

More information on the focus of Sarphati Amsterdam research can be found in our Research Programme.

Various projects and research studies are being conducted under the Sarphati Amsterdam flag. A brief description per study is given below. Do you have ideas for a good addition to this portfolio? If so, please contact us and share your ideas for a new study or intervention. We’d be delighted to discuss these with you!

My Daily Moves

o Project managers: Mai Chin A Paw & Teatske Altenburg
o Contact: Teatske Altenburg
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam (AAGG) & Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/11/2015 – 1/6/2019

MyDailyMoves (a child-report physical activity monitor) is an online tool for assessing physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep in children aged 9-12 years old. MyDailyMoves is developed together with the children themselves, using several participatory methods (e.g. photovoice and concept mapping). By involving the children, who are the experts of their behavior, we aim to better reflect their daily activities and needs when it comes to assessing their behavior. 

Healthy Sleep Project

o Project manager/contact: Laura Belmon (
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam (AAGG) & VU Amsterdam & Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/6/2016 – 31/12/2020

Healthy sleep is a combination of adequate sleep duration, good sleep quality and a regular sleep timing. This is crucial to the development of the children living in Amsterdam. Good sleep habits helps children to stay healthy and fit, and to achieve their learning goals at school. However, we know little about the most important determinants of children’s unhealthy sleep, the prevalence of unhealthy sleep among children living in Amsterdam, and how we can stimulate healthy sleep among the children in our city via a preventative intervention. In this four-year project, research is being conducted to provide answers to these questions.

Lekker gezond

o Project manager/contact: Froukje Takens
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam (AAGG) & VU Amsterdam & Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/7/2016 – 30/6/2021

Jump-in is a multi-component school-based intervention stimulating physical activity and healthy eating habits among primary schoolchildren in Amsterdam. The healthy eating component includes a healthy nutrition school policy and workshops for parents and children. The current study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the Jump-in healthy eating component and to conduct a process evaluation.

ABCD-ELSO: Early life stress and obesity

o Project manager/contact: Susanne de Rooij
o Organisation: Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/6/2017 – 31/12/2019

Children with early life stress (ELS) exposure more often develop obesity. Both exposure to maternal stress in pregnancy and to stress in childhood increase the risk of becoming overweight or obese. There is an urgent need for prevention and intervention programs, but little is known about underlying mechanisms. Probably one of the most important pathways is through increased caloric intake, which is likely to also be affected by mental health status. Therefore, we aim to investigate the association between ELS, mental health and caloric intake in children, and to disentangle the underlying pathways. 

Sleep and growth in the first 1,000 days

o Project manager/contact:Margreet Harskamp
o Organisation: Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/9/2017 – 31/12/2021

I’m a paediatrician at the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD) and researcher at AMC. As researcher I’m conducting a PhD project in which I examine sleep and growth in the first 1,000 days of life. These are the 1,000 days between conception (fertilisation of an ovum) and the child’s second birthday. First of all, I’m examining what is known in literature about a connection between infants’ sleep and their later growth (project 1). I’m examining how the growth of infants changes over time in the Sarphati Cohort (project 2) and examining whether this is connected to their growth (project 3). In the ABCD cohort, I’m examining whether excessive crying at 3 months has a connection with later sleep and growth (project 4). And finally, I’d like to examine whether influencing babies’ sleep could also have a positive effect (project 5).

Sarphati Ethnography

o Project manager/contact:Christian Bröer (
o Organisation: UvA
o Project term: 1/10/2017 – 1/10/2022

The University of Amsterdam and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD) are examining how Amsterdam’s young children and their parents approach food, exercise and sleeping patterns during the child’s first year of life. The aim of this study is to learn more about everyday care for children at home and how it relates to public health care. It is precisely the first years of the child, in which parents are pressured so much, that are of great importance. In the early years, households develop ways of eating, sleeping and exercising that have a long-term effect on health.

Antibiotics, probiotics, the microbiome and chronic illnesses in children

o Project manager/contact:Arnoud Verhoeff
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam & Winclove Probiotics
o Project term: 1/1/2018 – 31/7/2022

Research has demonstrated that early exposure to antibiotics (during pregnancy and in the first two years after birth) may contribute to the development of various common chronic illnesses among children, including excess weight and allergies. This could possibly be a result of a disturbance in the composition of bacteria that live in the gut. It is important to collect and evaluate all evidence relating to the consequences of antibiotic use in order to gain better insight into the level at which antibiotics have an actual effect on the development of chronic illnesses. Administration of probiotics is considered as a potential intervention to redress the disturbed balance of bacteria in the gut. A literature review was carried out but this did not provide sufficient evidence for the role of early antibiotic exposure in the development of chronic illnesses. For this reason a decision was taken not to carry out a follow-up study.

Food4smiles, the first 1000 days in Amsterdam Nieuw-West

o Project managers/contacts:Femke Boelsma & Anna Groenewegen (
o Organisation: VU Amsterdam & Fred Foundation
o Project term: 1/1/2018 – 31/12/2022

During the first 1000 days of children’s lives – from conception to a child’s second birthday – the foundations for a healthy growth and development later in life are established.
Food4Smiles wants to contribute to a healthy start by collecting relevant insights and develop activities together with parents and their social environment, in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. We study what parents run into and what can help them to offer their children a healthy lifestyle in the first 1000 days. We also look at the system around parents and map relevant system factors which gives us a better understanding of how these influence a healthy start. Also, we deploy various art projects to make the importance of a healthy start visible to everyone in the district.

Sarphati Diaries: Nutrition in the transition from milk feed to solids

o Project manager/ contact: Joy Hall
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam & VU Amsterdam
o Project term: 1-6-2018 to 31-12-2020

The Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD) and VU Amsterdam have together started the Sarphati Diaries research among 200 Amsterdam families. The objective of this research is to study food intake among babies during the transition from milk feed to solids. This is an important period for the development of healthy eating patterns.
This research aims to improve our knowledge of what Amsterdam babies eat and drink in this period and at which times. The research is being conducted among families of Dutch, Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese origin so that we can also study any cultural differences. The research results may also contribute to improving the quality of medical advice and in so doing advance the health of current and future generations of children in Amsterdam.

What will we be doing exactly?
200 families will help us investigate the food intake process among babies in the transition period from milk feed to solids. That is why we are asking participants to complete a 3-day diary when their child is aged 6 and 12 months. Participants use this diary to note down what their child eats and drinks. They also take various photos of their child’s meals. Once the nutrition diary has been completed, the researcher makes an appointment with participants to discuss the nutrition diary and ask various questions about this. At 6 months, the participants also complete a short questionnaire about their background and their child’s diet over the past few months.

Growing up in Amsterdam

o Project manager/contact: Geertjan Overbeek
o Organisation: University of Amsterdam
o Project term: 9/1/2019 – 9/10/2023

The main objective in this research line is to examine the associations between parenting, DNA methylation, stress regulation, and behavior patterns of children. In addition, this project focuses on the question of whether parenting intervention can induce positive changes in children’s  self-regulation and behavior, through intervention-induced alterations in children’s DNA methylation.

The University of Amsterdam and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD) are examining how Amsterdam’s young children and their parents approach food, exercise and sleeping patterns during the child’s first year of life.
The goal is to understand more about the themes that are important in caring for a child. We are particularly curious about the experience of parents during the first years of a child’s life, during which they face many challenges. Which bottlenecks and good things do they experience in caring for their child, how does the child’s eating, sleeping and exercise develop in daily practice, how do family members handle this and who or what do parents find important in this?

Amsterdam Infant Microbiome Study (AIMS)

o Project manager/contact: Joanne Ujcic-Voortman
o Organisation: GGD Amsterdam
o Project term: 15/1/2019 – 21/5/2026

The human microbiome develops in the first three years of life and is influenced by a range of environmental factors such as a baby’s delivery method, type of feed and intake of antibiotics. Disturbances in the microbiome can influence the occurrence of excess weight/obesity and tooth decay. However, there is currently insufficient early childhood research regarding the relationship between excess weight/obesity and tooth decay and the development of the microbiome. With AIMS we aim to establish data collection to conduct exploratory research into the development of the microbiome in relation to healthy growth and development. Our particular focus is on growth development and oral health. We are also examining the role of nutrition and other lifestyle factors in the 0-3 age range among various ethnic groups in Amsterdam.
You can find more information on the AIMS website:

GEAR: Growing Emotion and Attention Regulation

o Project manager/contact:Martina Zaharieva
o Organisation:UvA & Research Priority Area Yield
o Project term: 1/4/2019 – 1/1/2022

Self-regulation constitutes a major drive of socioeconomic and health-related outcomes across the lifespan and the accurate prediction of its developmental course is thus of vital importance for designing and evaluating interventions. Using recent advances in eye-tracking technology, we developed an eye-tracking toolbox to measure attention regulation as it first manifests in early infancy. In a multi-method longitudinal study we look at the development of attention control from infancy into toddlerhood in relation to other developing forms of self-regulation – from the control of emotions to the regulation of sleep, energy intake, and temperament.


o Project manager/contact:Martinet Streppel
o Organisation: HvA
o Project term: 1/3/2020 – 31/5/2021

The environment in which a child grows up plays an important role in the development of a healthy lifestyle. The CO-HEALTHY project of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences focuses on the collaboration between Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) teachers and parents in childcare. A toolkit for ECEC teachers is being developed and its effects will be examined. The toolkit includes parent-child (home)activities and materials regarding a healthy lifestyle in young children. ECEC teachers can carry out this activities during their regular contact moments with parents. The aim is to stimulate a teacher-parent partnership and contribute to a healthy weight development of young children from different socio-economic and socio-cultural backgrounds.


o Project manager/contact: Patty Leijten
o Organisation: UvA & Research Institute for Child Development and Education
o Project term:1/9/2020 – 31/12/2023

There is a tension in the GGz (Dutch mental health care) between standardized protocols and personalized care. In this project we will develop an algorithm to predict the best treatment content for early disruptive behavior problems in individual children, based on new insights into risk factor relevance, malleability, and acceptability for individual families. The proposed project will result in a decision tool to aid evidence-based personalization of GGz treatment.

LIKE: Lifestyle Innovations based on youths' Knowledge and Experience

o Project managers/contacts:Karien Stronks ( & Wilma Waterlander (
o Organisation: Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: t.b.d.

LIKE aims to promote healthy habits and a healthy life of adolescents in the transition period from ten-years to teenager with a focus on diet, physical activity, sleep and screen use. We use a combination of systems dynamics and participatory action research to develop, implement and evaluate a dynamic action programme in Amsterdam-East.

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

Meten van slaapgezondheid

o Project manager: Maartje van Stralen
o Contact: Patty Leijten
o Organisation: VU Amsterdam
o Project term: 1/3/2019 – 1/3/2021

In order to contribute to the improvement of lifestyle in youth, Sarphati Amsterdam needs to be able to reliably and validly measure child sleep behaviour. As such, in this project, we aim to review the current scientific literature in order to identify a questionnaire that is appropriate for use in children aged 4- 12 years old. If such an instrument currently does not exist, we will develop it within this project.

Charge Your Brainzzz

o Project manager/contact: Danique Heemskerk []
o Organisation: VU Amsterdam & UvA & GGD Amsterdam
o Project term: 1/8/2020 – 1/8/2024

Dutch teens today are sleeping too little, often experience poor quality sleep and the great majority reports being structurally tired during the day. This affects their school performances, but also their mental and physical health. With the project Charge Your Brainzzz 2.0 we aim to promote healthy sleep among teens between the age of 12-15. To do this, we apply a combination of a ‘Complex Systems Approach’, ‘Participatory Action Research Approach’ and ‘Health in All Policies approach’ for the development, implementation and evaluation of interventions, including an education program for prevocational secondary education students. Teens, parents and professionals working with youth are involved during every step of our research, from investigating underlying mechanisms affecting sleep health, co-developing interventions till implementing the interventions.

My Little Moves

o Project managers: Mai Chin A Paw & Teatske Altenburg
o Contact: Jelle Arts
o Organization: Amsterdam UMC & GGD Amsterdam
o Project term: 1/12/2019 – 1/12/2023

‘My Little Moves’ aims to develop valid, reliable and user-friendly measurement instruments to monitor 24-h movement behaviors (physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep) of 0-4-year old children. These instruments will be used to provide high-quality evidence on young children’s 24-h movement patterns over time and the longitudinal association with growth, motor and social-emotional development. Additionally, determinants will be examined. Subsequently, we will co-create recommendations for guidelines and interventions for children’s ideal 24-hour movement patterns together with parents and relevant professionals.

Other research projects

– Healthy school lunch
– A healthy supermarket in neighbourhoods with a low socioeconomic status
– Care for Obesity
– Growing up healthily together
– Active kids
– Follow You: research and treatment of children with a connective tissue disorder

In the neighborhood, with the neighborhood and for the neighborhood

o Project manager/contact: Carry Renders & Femke van Nassau
o Organisation: VU Amsterdam & GGD Amsterdam (AAGG) & Amsterdam UMC
o Project term: 1/05/2020 – 1/5/2024

The overall aim of this project is to advance Amsterdam’s integrated neighborhood approach (INA) by developing an implementation toolbox that includes standardized working principles and protocols as well as evaluating the INA’s implementation successes and pitfalls, and its effectiveness in influencing its target population’s health behaviors and underlying determinants influencing weight development via a stepped-wedge design.