New! Linking environmental data to health data


- by Yara Poel

In 2018, Lifelines joined the Geoscience and hEalth Cohort COnsortium (GECCO). GECCO is a Dutch infrastructure that aims to facilitate research into the relationships between environmental characteristics (such as air quality, noise, recreational facilities, public transport etc.) and health.

In the Netherlands, a great variety of high-quality environmental (geo) data is available for research. These “exposome” data receive growing attention from medical researchers, since the strong relationships between environmental factors and the development and severity of various (chronic) diseases are evident. However, the threshold for researchers to link exposome data to health data – for example from longitudinal cohorts – can be quite high, mainly because the geo data is collected in scattered datasets owned by separate organizations, using a variety of spatial scales, and requiring different methods for optimal linkage.

The aim of GECCO is threefold:

  1. To gather, combine and complement existing geographic information system (GIS) data in a repository, building on initial efforts within the former EMGO Institute and the current Amsterdam University Medical Center
  2. To enrich 20 longstanding and renowned Dutch health-related cohorts, including Lifelines, with these GIS data by uniform, secure and local linkages; and 
  3. To provide researchers with a sustainable platform to get streamlined access to combined environmental- and cohort health data. 

GECCO recently received a NWO-ZonMW grant and formally started in November 2018. The consortium is coordinated by the Amsterdam University Medical Center, location VUmc, and governed by a steering group with representatives of all the GECCO-affiliated institutes. 

GECCO is currently prioritizing which environmental data repositories should first be “unlocked” for linkage. Are you interested in a particular type of environmental data? Then please let us know by filling in this survey from GECCO: (only availible in Dutch)