David van Bodegom en Tineke Abma, directeur Leyden Academy

David van Bodegom appointed Professor of Vitality in an ageing population

Leiden, The Netherlands, 2 September 2020 – As of 1 September 2020, David van Bodegom MA MD PhD is appointed Professor by Special Appointment of ‘Vitality in an ageing population’ at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), department of Public Health and Primary Care (PHEG). This new chair is established on behalf of knowledge institute Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing.

David van Bodegom (1978) is trained as a physician and historian, and works as a senior researcher at Leyden Academy since 2009 where he leads the activities in the focus area Ageing with vitality. He is also a lecturer at the department of PHEG, and supervises several PhD students. Van Bodegom obtained his PhD at Leiden University in 2011, based on a large cohort study on the effects of the environment on the ageing process in rural Ghana. He discovered that the Ghanese elderly live in remarkably good health – without diabetes and cardiovascular disease – as a result of an environment that encourages healthy habits such as daily exercise, a moderate diet, a good night’s sleep, and little stress. He decided to make it his mission to transfer these findings from Ghana to our modern environment. Van Bodegom is convinced that the public environment rather than the consultation room holds the key to healthy ageing.

Potential health gains
Van Bodegom on his appointment: “It is truly a privilege to be able to contribute from this position to helping people live longer lives in a healthier and more pleasant way. There is so much to be gained.” He is looking forward to a closer collaboration with fellow scientists from various disciplines in Leiden and the LUMC Campus The Hague. He will also lecture on ageing with vitality to young doctors and in other academic courses.

The potential of peer coaching
As a Professor by Special Appointment, Van Bodegom will focus his research on two topics related to ageing with vitality. First of all, the potential of ‘peer coaching’. Together with his colleagues at the Leyden Academy, Van Bodegom founded the Vitality Clubs, sports clubs of older neighbors exercising together. The participants coach each other; no professionals are involved. Research shows these clubs are successful: people join to improve their physical fitness, but the social aspect is just as important. Van Bodegom will study if the model of peer coaching can also be applied to other areas, for instance in reversing early stage Type 2 diabetes.

Impact of the environment
The second topic Van Bodegom will focus on in the coming years, is the impact of the environment on healthy behavior. Many of our daily health decisions are influenced by our environment. At home, at work, on the road, we are constantly seduced to eat too much and to be inactive. Instead of resisting these seductions by our will power, we can aim to remove these triggers from our environment and introduce healthy seductions instead. Van Bodegom will study how our environment can help us live longer, healthier lives.

Making knowledge accessible
In addition to doing research and providing education, the Leyden Academy values the dissemination of knowledge and insights to a broader audience. This means a lot of time and energy is invested in making the latest insights on vitality publicly available through newspapers, radio, television, books, courses, and public lectures.

If you have any questions, please contact Niels Bartels by phone: +31 (0)6 34614817 or by email.