CAD.20.006 – A healthy start: Understanding how child factors, family, and neighborhood influence children’s lifestyle and wellbeing

Route: Child and adolescent development, upbringing and education

Cluster question: 084 What is the best way for us to analyse and prevent the problem of overweight and obesity?

Children in the Netherlands and elsewhere have an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and eat more processed foods, leading to higher child overweight and obesity rates than ever before. Why? To be physically active, children need green spaces, playgrounds, opportunities to move around in car-free streets. What children eat should be of high nutritional value but low in sugar and saturated fat. Parents largely determine their offspring’s diet, set or don’t set meal routines, and act as role models for a positive approach to healthy food from early on. It is puzzling that pre- and interventions tackle child lifestyle in a unidimensional manner and focus on school or family environment, but rarely both. What is more, a child’s DNA, metabolism, and personality affect not only calorie update and spending but also determines how family and neighborhood environment influence child health and wellbeing. In short, child, family, and neighborhood factors act in interplay in determining child health and wellbeing but integrated, personalized programs are lacking. A reason for this is the absence of an integrated scientific knowledge base, which hinders the efficient translation of scientific insight into effective integrated lifestyle pre- and interventions for children.

To change this, we bring together expertise from pedagogy, pediatric epidemiology and psychology, nutrition and sports sciences, and spatial sciences to elucidate how individual child factors (genetic and psychological) predispose to healthy and unhealthy lifestyles under different proximal (family) and distal (neighborhood) conditions. Together, we seek to understand the mechanisms that increase or decrease the likelihood that children lead a lifestyle conducive to health and wellbeing. This integrated approach is both at the forefront of research into child health and wellbeing and informs personalized pre- and intervention programs for child overweight and obesity.


children, family, gene-environment, lifestyle, neighbourhood, obesity, overweight


Organisation University of Groningen (RUG)
Name dr. T. (Tina) Kretschmer