Our Team

"With joy, we work together in an inspiring environment to create better opportunities for youth to grow up from happy, healthy children to happy, healthy adults."

- Team Dream -

We are:

sports scientists,
nutritionists,
remedial educators,
epidemiologists,
(child / youth) doctors,
health scientists,
anthropologists,
and psychologists.

Mai dreams of a world where children grow up healthy and happy. Mai is fascinated by why we do what we do and how this affects health, with particular interest in youth. She combines her scientific expertise in human movement science and epidemiology to unravel working mechanisms using innovative methodologies, exploring unique intervention strategies and creatively combining multiple disciplines. She was awarded University Research Chair professor at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. Growing up in a multicultural family, she learned to observe the world from various perspectives, enjoy diversity, believe in serendipity and search beyond the unexpected. This sculpted her unique scientific frame of mind.

Prof. Dr. Mai Chin A Paw

Section Chair

Mariëtte's background is developmental and theoretical psychology. She obtained my PhD with the thesis Learning through participation. The communication between young children and their caregivers in informal learning and tutoring situations. Utrecht University (1995). She was a post-doc at Utrecht University on professional communication with parents in youth care. Since 1998 she focused on accessibility and quality of health care in relation to diversity and exclusion mechanisms.She always strives for sharing knowledge, experience and expertise between (academic) researchers, professionals in health care and policy makers. Since 2014, she is coordinator of the Academic Collaborative Centre for Public Child Health Care (Academische Werkplaats JGZ).

Dr. Mariëtte Hoogsteder

Coordinator of Academische Werkplaats

As a human movement scientist, I obtained my PhD degree on muscle physiology. Since 2010 I work at the VU University medical center, within the section Child Health & Care research. I am interested in research related to youth physical activity and sedentary behaviour. In my work, I examine which behavioural patterns are most detrimental, and how they can be improved to maximize child and teen health. As children are the experts of their own lives, I'm not only doing research on children, but I also collaborate with them.

Dr. Teatske Altenburg

Senior Researcher

After my PhD at the department of biological psychology at the VU, I have been working as an epidemiologist at the department of social medicine at the AMC since 2001. I have been project leader of the ABCD study since 2010. The aim of this study is to investigate early life factors that contribute to optimal health and development of children from pregnancy onwards. Besides teaching and coordinating various data collections and researches with ABCD data, my personal interest lies in the field of overweight and cardiovascular development of children and explaining socio-economic and ethnic differences.

Dr. Tanja Vrijkotte

Project leader - ABCD Study

Since 2003 I have been working as a researcher at the Amsterdam UMC. I have a degree in biological psychology and a PhD in epidemiology and I combine both specializations in my research. I am involved in several large cohort studies, including the ABCD study, and my research focuses on mental health throughout life and how certain factors can contribute to it early in life. I am also affiliated with Het Stresslab, which is an expertise center on stress among young people and where we try to translate scientific research in this area into practice.

Dr. Susanne de Rooij

Associate Professor

In 2015 I started working for Child & Adolescent Public health Research and Innovation. In my PhD project ‘Kids in Action’ I co-created actions with children to stimulate healthy physical activity and dietary behaviors. As a postdoc I currently work on the LIKE project (Lifestyle Innovations Based on youth's Knowledge and Experience) in which we also aim to stimulate healthy lifestyles, but in 10-14-year olds, by applying participatory action research and systems science. As an implementation fellow I work on the project ‘I Act’, in which we want to tackle racism in academia. Expertise: public health, participatory action research (with children), social in-/exclusion

Dr. Manou Anselma

Post-doc

I am a sports scientist and physiotherapist and obtained my PhD from the University of Wollongong, Australia. After a postdoc at the University of Michigan, America, I have been working with Child and Adolescent Public Health since the end of 2018. I am interested in exercise, health, and development in young children (0-5 years) with a specific interest in motor development. My research mainly focuses on the health effects of motor development and movement, and how this can be optimized by developing and implementing (motor) interventions.

Dr. Sanne Veldman

Post-doc and Physiotherapist

Silvia works as a social and health physician, a youth physician at the Municipality of Amsterdam and as a senior researcher at Amsterdam UMC. Since 2006 she has been project leader of VoorZorg and VoorZorg-Verder, a well-known program for the prevention of child abuse among young high-risk women. She is chair of the scientific committee of the AJN (Doctors Youth Health Care Netherlands). Currently Silvia is a co-promoter of a PhD student with the dissertation: 'to measure is to know: a study on measuring safety in domestic relationships'. Her area of focus is the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.

Dr. Silvia van den Heijkant

Senior Researcher

Vincent is researching new ways to analyze motion sensor data for physical activity and sleep research. His algorithms and open source software have been used in more than 150 scientific publications. In addition to his part-time appointment at the VU, Dr. Van Hees consultancy work for various international research groups.

Dr. Vincent van Hees

Post-doc in Measurement & Analysis

Albertine Baauw, MSc.

PhD candidate

In order to better understand and help people through the use of computers, I specialized during my master Artificial Intelligence in studying cognitive processes through various AI techniques. In 2019 I started as a junior researcher within the My Little Moves project. On the one hand I am involved in developing a method for measuring movements in young children and on the other hand translating movement data into sequence maps, which specify how different movement intensities are varied during the day. It really appeals to me that I can contribute to healthcare through a technical approach.

Annelinde Lettink, MSc.

PhD candidate

Bianca Fortuin, MSc.

PhD candidate

After my developmental psychology training, I have been affiliated with the Youth & Health section since 2011. I have been involved in various research projects aimed at gaining insight into a healthy lifestyle for children and young people. At the moment I am mainly involved in the evaluation of the Healthy Neighborhoods project, in collaboration with Jantje Beton and IVN. In this project, local residents and children, together with local authorities, are in charge of making their neighborhood more livable and healthier.

Daniëlle Kornet-van der Aa, MSc.

Developmental psychologist and researcher

Dr. Esi van der Zwan

Data Manager - ABCD Study

After a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Health, I completed the master's degree in Health and Society at Wageningen University Research Center in 2016. Within this master I focused on stimulating healthy dietary behavior in children, and I conducted research both at home and abroad. Since July 2016, I have been working as a Researcher in Training at VUmc Social Medicine in collaboration with the GGD Amsterdam. I am committed to evaluating Jump-in's healthy food policy. Jump-in supports primary schools in underprivileged neighborhoods in Amsterdam to promote healthy encourage physical activity and eating behavior among their students.

Froukje Takens, MSc.

PhD candidate

Hakima El Mesbahi, MSc.

Project Assistant of the Academische Werkplaats

I completed the Research Master in Health Sciences in 2020 at the Erasmus University. I did my research on the extent of socio-economic inequality of cancer screening utilization in Europe. I strive for a promising and healthy environment in which young people can grow up. Therefore, I started as a PhD candidate at Child Health & Care. In collaboration with the Centre for Urban Mental Health, I study the onset of affective and addictive disorders in adolescents in an urban setting. Additionally, I contribute to a new research phase within the ABCD-cohort about the course of mental health and well-being among adolescents.

Hannan Bozhar, MSc.

PhD candidate

After my bachelor 'Health and Life', I did the master Management, Policy Analysis, and Entrepreneurship in Health and Life Sciences at the VU. I am doing a PhD with the LIKE program, which falls under the Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach. The aim of the project is to develop a sustainable approach aimed at improving health in collaboration with young people, parents and the neighborhood in Amsterdam East. I think it is important that the interventions are developed by the target group itself, because it is then better adapted to their wishes and needs.

Helga Emke, MSc.

PhD candidate

After completing my education in pedagogical sciences and sociology, I started my PhD research into the JOGG approach in early 2020. JOGG is an integrated approach aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and prevention of overweight in children and young people, which is currently being used in more than 150 municipalities in the Netherlands. The current research examines the ways in which the JOGG approach is shaped within various municipalities and whether the JOGG approach is effective in making the living environment of children and young people healthier and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Irma Huiberts, MSc.

PhD candidate

I want to help people improve their health in a creative way, together. That is why I completed the master Health Education and Promotion from 2020 to 2021. In this master, I have learned how important it is that people can cocreate projects and improve research that is aimed at their benefit. Health promoting projects should be effective and reach the right groups. In that way, we can contribute to children’s health through evidence-based techniques. I am Mai's personal assistant and a supportive member of the Collaborative Centre for Public Child Health Care (Academische Werkplaats JGZ).

Jasmijn van Heijst, MSc.

Personal Research Assistant of Prof. Dr. Mai Chin A Paw

In 2015 I graduated at the Vrije University as a sports scientist. Since I am very interested in monitoring the physical development of children, I did research at the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo after my education. Here I investigated the physical fitness and motor coordination of 9-year-old children in Suriname. After working for 3 years as a research coordinator at the VUmc, I started in November 2019 as a PhD student within the Child and Adolescent Public Health section. Here I work on the project ''My Little Moves'', where we research the optimal 24-hour exercise pattern for growth and development of 0-4 year old children.

Jelle Arts, MSc.

PhD candidate

As a Marie Curie PhD fellow based at the Amsterdam VUmc, I hold the position of ESR1 as part of the Health Cascade project (ITN). My PhD focus is on theoretical frameworks for co-creation in Public Health. My academic background is in the Social Sciences discipline; I hold both a Master of Science in Social Policy and Social Research, and a Bachelor of Science in Population and Geography. I’m passionate about reducing health inequalities and improving the lives of diverse populations via policy and research development. I have a robust exposure to data analytics, evidence-based research, policy, consultancy, and project management.

Katrina Messiha, MSc.

PhD candidate

With an interdisciplinary background in Global health, Social-cultural Anthropology and Occupational therapy, my research interests are directed at solving complex health issues embedded within social-environmental contexts, empowering local communities towards sustainable and equitable health outcomes using innovative research methods. As part of the EU-funded Health CASCADE project, I am applying methods and principles of co-creation to shape activity-friendly urban environments together with youths and stakeholders in SE Amsterdam. Additionally, I will evaluate this process of co-creation with the goal of developing a robust public health co-creation methodology toolkit, informed by scientific evidence and real-world applications.

Kunshan Goh, MSc.

PhD Candidate

Because of my interest in health promotion, I started in June 2016 as a researcher in training at the Amsterdam UMC (location VUmc) within the Child and Adolescent Public Health section and the GGD Amsterdam, at the Amsterdam Approach to Healthy Weight and Sarphati Amsterdam, research for healthy living. The project involves developing a preventive intervention using Intervention Mapping to stimulate healthy sleeping behavior among Amsterdam children aged 6-9 years.

Laura Belmon, MSc.

Post-doc

In September 2016 I started my PhD research in collaboration with the Amsterdam Public Health research institute. My PhD research is about screening for anxiety, depression and suicidality in children and adolescents at school. Anxiety and depression are common in children and adolescents. That is why I am investigating whether questionnaires that children and adolescents can complete themselves help to identify anxious and depressed children and adolescents at an early stage. I investigate the psychometric properties of short questionnaires that are applicable within the school environment.

Leonie Klaufus, MSc.

PhD candidate

In recent years I have worked as a project leader on the Youth Health Monitor for Secondary Education. With this monitor, the GGD Amsterdam annually collects data on lifestyle, well-being and health among second and fourth graders in secondary education. This monitor provides a wealth of valuable data that is used to shape local health policy. I would like to delve more deeply into this data, so that policy and prevention can be used (even) more specifically. That is why I started my PhD research at the GGD in the fall of 2016. Amsterdam in collaboration with the VUmc with the theme 'Suicidal behavior among adolescents'.

Leonie van Vuuren, MSc.

PhD candidate

After my bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Health at Wageningen University, I started the pre-master's program in Human Movement Sciences at the VU. During my master Human Movement Sciences I did an internship at J&G and I did research on validation of accelerometers in toddlers. Now I am working on a research project to develop a Core Outcome Set for prevention research into overweight and obesity in children. I also participate in the MyDailyMoves project.

Lotte de Vries, MSc.

Researcher

I am a doctor of Society and Health profile Youth at the GGD Amsterdam and a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam UMC. My PhD trajectory arose from a personal desire to improve sleep and the health effects of sleep in newborns. In my studies I use data from the ABCD study, the Sarphati cohort and from a randomized study at the UvA. The results should be usable in practice as much as possible.

MD Margreet Harskamp – van Ginkel

PhD candidate, Medical Doctor

During and after my studies I worked as a museum teacher at the Photography Museum in Amsterdam on projects where photography was used as a medium to start the conversation about and reflect on various social themes. I have also worked as a research assistant on various health promotion projects. Since September 2017 I have been working as a PhD student within the LIKE project. With this project we try to develop a sustainable approach in co-creation with children, parents, and the neighborhood aimed at promoting healthy behavior in Amsterdam East. In addition to my work as a PhD student, I am an active volunteer at the IMC Weekend School and Doctors of the World.

Meredith Overman, MSc.

PhD candidate

After obtaining my bachelor's degree in Nutrition & Dietetics, I immediately started the master's in Health Science. Not surprisingly, I chose the Nutrition & Health specialization during this master. I wrote my master's thesis on the data of the ABCD study. During this internship I noticed that I enjoyed working with numbers (the analyses) the most. When there was a data manager vacancy immediately after my internship in 2014 at the ABCD study, I immediately responded and I still work there! In addition to the data management tasks, I also coordinate the research phases of the ABCD study, including physical measurements and questionnaire research.

Noekie van Lieshout, MSc.

Data Manager - ABCD Study

Marie Curie PhD Fellow in the project ‘Impact of evidence-based co-creation of the urban environment together with youth’.

The aim of my work is to apply evidence-based methodology to co-create activity-friendly environments together with youth, urban planners, and other relevant stakeholders in the community and to subsequently evaluate the impact of the co-created built environment together with youth. My background lies architecture and spatial planning with a focus on inclusive planning spanning over facets, such as socio-economic equity, ableism, health and age-based prejudice regarding mobility and urban space.

Sara Rachdan, MSc. 

PhD candidate

Sumayah Vandenbussche, MSc. 

Researcher