David van Bodegom
Professor by special appointment Vitality in an ageing population
David van Bodegom is professor of Vitality in an ageing population by special appointment at the department Public health and primary care at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC). He is also appointed theme leader Vitality at knowledge institute Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing and author of several books on vitality and ageing for the general population at Atlas Contact publishers Amsterdam.
Vitality in an ageing population
The chair Vitality in an ageing population is embedded at the department of Public Health and Primary Care of the LUMC. It is chair by special appointment by knowledge institute Leyden Academy on Vitality and ageing. In line with the societal mission of this institute, David van Bodegom performs research that aims to directly contribute to increasing the opportunities for living longer healthy lives for people.
Many diseases of old age, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes can be prevented and improved by a healthy lifestyle. Within this chair, David van Bodegom investigates novel methods by which people can sustain healthy behaviour in the long term. In this regard, he does not focus on the individual that makes conscious decisions and own responsibilities, but focusses instead on the population. He conducts research on how the social and physical environment can help people, sometimes unconsciously (nudging) to sustain healthy routines. Additionally, he studies how people can coach each other through peercoaching, without professionals. To this end he, together with his colleagues, founded the Vitality Club, in which people exercise daily, outdoors in the community. This has proven a very successful method, especially because of the social benefits that people experience.
David van Bodegom was trained as a medical doctor and historian. He did his PhD research at the department of Gerontology and Geriatrics of the LUMC. In rural Ghana, he studied the role of the environment on the ageing process. During his PhD he also volunteered at the Kruispost where he did consultations for people without health insurance.
In 2011 he received his PhD on the thesis Post-reproductive survival in a polygamous society in rural Africa. His studies in Ghana showed that -although older people in Ghana have many diseases, mostly infectious diseases, the typical diseases of old age, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes were almost nonexistent.
After his PhD David van Bodegom made it his mission to translate his findings in the Ghanaian population to interventions for our European environment. Although trained as a medical doctor he left the consultation room in the conviction that the public environment is the key to healthy ageing and vitality. To this end he joined the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing as a researcher.
David van Bodegom wrote several books on vitality and healthy ageing for the general public. In 2012, his first book was a novel on his experiences in Ghana: ‘Necessity knows no law’. Together with Prof. Rudi Westendorp (Copenhagen University) he wrote the bestseller Growing old in practice in which they discuss how small changes in the environment can help people to sustain healthy habits. In 2018 he published De-medicate, that helps readers to take back control of their own health. In The secret of the turtle he studied what we can learn about the biology of ageing from long living species. In 2019 he wrote, also with Prof. Rudi Westendorp, A ten year gift introducing a novel approach to living longer healthy lives.