... / ... / ... / Our (associate) professors / Alex Burdorf

Alex Burdorf

Prof.dr.A.BurdorfProfessor of Determinants of Population Health

Personal web Page

Health inequalities have been consistently present in most countries for many years. In the Netherlands persons with a higher education live at least 6 years longer than persons with only primary school education. The difference in years spent in good health is even larger. Interestingly, we only have to cycle around in the close vicinity of Erasmus MC to be confronted with these large socio-economic inequalities in health. In some neighbourhoods, such as Feijenoord and Delfshaven, life expectancy of men is at least 4 years less than in the more affluent neighbourhoods, such as Hoek van Holland and Hillegersberg-Schiebroek. Tackling these health inequalities is a big challenge!

A necessary step is to better understand the persistence of these health inequalities. Important questions for research are: Which diseases are responsible for the inequalities? Which determinants play a role in the occurrence of these diseases? How are different determinants interrelated? Participation in society probably plays an important role, whether it is participation in paid employment of persons at working age, or social participation of elderly persons in their own neighbourhood. In the coming years the importance of health for social participation and the influence of social participation on health will be an important area of my research.

Knowledge about determinants is not enough. Research is needed to demonstrate the ability of welldesigned primary preventive interventions to improve population health and contribute to the aspired reduction in inequalities in health. Interventions on hazardous working conditions as well as unhealthy behaviours are necessary to increase health and sustained employability in the working age population. Interventions in the social and physical environment of citizens are needed for a healthier lifestyle. Interventions should empower young and old persons to remain actively engaged in society. Effectiveness studies on integrated approaches are urgently needed in order to demonstrate that national and local policies can have an impact on population health. Tools for health impact assessment must be developed to guide priorities in public health programs.

Public health is faced with many challenges, and offers excellent opportunities for innovative research that really matters for the health of the population. As professor of Determinants of Public Health at Erasmus MC, I feel privileged to be part of this inspiring research area.

Alex Burdorf