The Sarphati Institute is set to become a unique triple helix scientific research institute in Amsterdam allowing the government, science and business worlds to collaborate on research relating to public health. An effective, joint approach is vital in the face of the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases (such as obesity, diabetes type 2, heart & vascular diseases and various forms of cancer and brain diseases). The Amsterdam College of Mayor and Alderpersons has made €8 million available for the project. The specifics of the project will now be elaborated upon before the City Council makes a final decision on the definitive plans in autumn 2014.

Unique research institute

Amsterdam Alderperson Eric van der Burg (Health & Welfare) commented on developments: “We still have too many children in Amsterdam who are unhealthily overweight. Research at the Sarphati Institute will initially be focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing young people in Amsterdam from becoming overweight. This will lay the foundations for tackling lifestyle diseases in the long term.” A sound research infrastructure featuring comprehensive registries, databases and biological samples is also essential. In addition, numerous initiatives to improve public health (such as projects to tackle obesity and poor eating habits) can be applied in Amsterdam. In doing so, the city would become a location for scientific experimentation that could lead to discoveries being made that combat the epidemic of lifestyle diseases, both now and in the future.

Intensive research into (un)healthy weights is being conducted all over the world. However, the Sarphati Institute is set to distinguish itself through three essential characteristics:

  1. Creating a direct link between the introduction of measures to prevent and treat excess weight and obesity on the one hand and research to improve the effectiveness of these measures on the other.

  2. Conducting both applied and pure scientific research within a single institution.

  3. Uniting the complete spectrum of relevant scientific disciplines (from biomedical research through to cultural anthropology and developmental psychology) within a single institution in order to enable integral research. An integral approach of this kind is vital in order to effectively combat the epidemic of excess weight and obesity.

Amsterdam: solid foundations

Party-wide political support for improving health in the city puts Amsterdam in a unique position. The city also has access to knowledge institutes (the UvA, AMC, VU, VUmc and colleges) that are home to internationally-acclaimed scientific expertise and a large international network. In addition, the presence of major multinationals and SMEs in the city that are active in the fields of nutrition, healthcare and technology also provides a solid foundation for collaboration between the government, science and business worlds.

Financial considerations

The College of Mayor and Alderpersons has made €8 million available over a period of five years. These funds will be used to set up the Sarphati Study into Childhood Obesity, extend the existing Helius (Healthy Life in an Urban Setting) and ABCD (Amsterdam Born Children and their Development) studies, assess the effects of the city’s efforts to tackle excess weight (the Amsterdamse Aanpak Gezond Gewicht) and cover the expenses linked to setting up the Sarphati Institute and the first five years of running costs. The one-off municipal investment in the research infrastructure and the institute will allow for the development of a sound data infrastructure that will form the basis of an extensive, long-term research programme. Investment in the research programme by the business community, knowledge institutions and research funds (which will ultimately exceed the municipal investment) will allow the Sarphati Institute to become financially self-sufficient after five years.