Hein Raat

Prof.dr. H.RaatProfessor of infant, child and adolescent public health

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In order to improve public health we should apply a life course perspective: the basis for a healthy population lies in early life. During pregnancy and in early childhood future health and disease may be programmed. Inequities in adult health may find their roots in childhood.

Our research team, in close collaboration with other professionals, contributes to the knowledge of determinants of infant, child and adolescent health, and with regard to effective strategies to improve infant, child and adolescent health. Specifically we aim to analyze inequities in health from pregnancy onwards, and to find cues for effective policies that promote equal chances for growth and development in all children.

The Generation R birth cohort study that includes 10.000 Rotterdam children and families is an ideal platform to study how physical and social environmental factors and personal factors (including genetic variations) interact and affect childhood health and inequities in health from early pregnancy onwards. Indicators of social disadvantage and their impact on growth, development and prevalent chronic conditions such as asthma and obesity, have our specific attention. We aim to unravel causal pathways, and in discussion with policy makers and professionals in preventive care we contribute to the development of public health policies.

The Netherlands have a well-developed system of free well-child care with specialized physicians, nurses and other experts. The care is outreaching and has a high coverage, up to 95%. Our research provides knowledge to enhance the quality and cost-effectiveness of this care system that has undergone rapid developments with the change of the health profile of children during the last decades (relatively less acute diseases and relatively more emotional, behavioral, lifestyle and parenting problems). 

In the studies we contribute to the development, implementation and effect- and process evaluation of new interventions. These are characterized by four elements: personalized (e.g. online tailored advice to parents, children and adolescents), predictive (by applying validated prediction tools as developed in clinical medicine), preventive (by promoting a healthy environment and lifestyles), and participatory (by promoting well-informed preference-based choices by parents, children and adolescents, and by promoting shared decision making in the consulting room).

Our projects can only be effective when parents, children and adolescents are involved, as well as policy makers at the regional, national and international level, and highly motivated medical and nursing professionals. Therefore we are actively engaged in so-called academic work places ('academische werkplaatsen' CEPHIR and DWARS) where research meets policy and practice and where these three parties collaborate with the purpose of enhancing population health from pregnancy and childhood until old age.
Hein Raat