Jochen Mierau is our new scientific director Lifelines


- by Marjolein

"As scientific director, I provide direction to Lifelines' ambitions, ensuring Lifelines remains current in times of change"

From participant to researcher to scientific director at Lifelines. Prof. Dr. Jochen Mierau is Professor of Public Health Economics at the University of Groningen and will take up his new position at the Northern data and biobank on July 1st. His task is to use the huge amount of data Lifelines manages to generate even more national and international impact on healthcare and health policy. The content and funding of the Fourth Assessment is crucial in this respect. The Fourth Assessment will make data collection even richer and more interesting. This will allow, for example, research into health before, during and after the corona pandemic. Together with director Bert-Jan Souman, there will be a joint management.

Lifelines as a time machine

Mierau: "In the government's prevention agreement, research into and the tackling of Alzheimer's disease, obesity and cancer are important objectives. Lifelines includes participants who have developed a disease during the course of their participation, since 2006. Lifelines has stored data and biosamples for the past 15 years. This allows us to look back in time to see if there were any signs of disease, allowing earlier detection and better development of a treatment. The health consequences of climate change are also becoming a more and more interesting topic. I hope that through all the upcoming rounds of research at Lifelines, in 20 years we will be able to look back to see if we can attribute any change in health to climate change. To me, Lifelines is therefore truly a time machine that is of great value to both researchers and policy makers."

Searching for health differences with data

As professor of Public Health Economics, Jochen Mierau is concerned with health differences in our country. Using Lifelines data, among others, he studies how these differences emerge and what mechanisms contribute to them. Until last month, Mierau was scientific director of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, where he also worked on this issue. Mierau: "As a researcher, I used Lifelines data to look at the relationship between the conditions people had at an early stage in their lives and their health later on in life. Here it is relevant that Lifelines has both information that participants have self-indicated, as well as measurable data. I hope to increase knowledge about this and bring that knowledge closer to policy in order to reduce health inequality in the Netherlands."

Experience as a participant

"All 167,000 Lifelines participants form a large community of people who are collectively committed to their health. I've been a participant since the beginning, as have my mother. I also enjoy being involved as both a researcher and a participant. As a researcher, it gives me a much better idea of where the data actually comes from. For me personally, it is very nice to know the state of your health in this way. The great thing about it is that we not only gain insight into our own health, but at the same time we also collect a treasure trove of data for health policies that we all have to deal with on a daily basis."