Health, prevention and the human life cycle
Investing in the care of young children is investing in the future. What makes a child vulnerable to maladaptation later in life, and which internal and external factors are protective? Why do some people have more difficulties in coping with stress than others? Which factors contribute to healthy ageing? Knowledge of protective and risk factors across the life-span is needed to develop and test preventive interventions and ‘health literacy’ approaches.
In the course of life, all humans face challenges to their physical and mental health. Many internal and external factors contribute to the risk of maladaptation or disease while others protect against disturbing influences. Studying these factors may contribute valuable clues for primary and secondary prevention, provided that we consider the complexity of the human organism and its interactions with the environment, ranging from families to mass media and from genes to socio-economic status. Furthermore, risk and protective factors have various outcomes in the successive stages of life. Insight into these factors can contribute to a more evidence-based approach in primary and secondary prevention, and in mental and physical health care. Methodological tools to address these questions vary from genetic studies and following large cohorts of people, to direct observation and intervention studies.
Within this research profile area, developmental and clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, specialists in education and child studies, public health and primary care specialists and gerontologists contribute their individual expertise and work together. Research groups co-operate closely, and have established professional, often institutionalised, ties with relevant societal settings: day care and schools, mental and physical health care, and public health practices.