Prof. K. Stronks PhD

Full Professor
Main activities
Education, Research, Other
public health
Focus of research

Karien Stronks, who graduated as a political scientist and health scientist, seeks to generate evidence on how the position of an individual in society impacts his/her health and – at the population level – leads to inequalities in health. For 25 years, she has focused on understanding why health inequalities arise and how to effectively combat them. During the last 10 years, she has undertaken this task as Professor of Public Health and Chair of the Dept. of Public Health at the Academic Medical Centre/University of Amsterdam.

Stronks has completed observational studies using a wide range of study designs (cross-sectional and prospective cohort studies, international comparative studies, questionnaire validation, qualitative studies) to map the mechanisms underlying socio-economic and ethnic inequalities in health, related to biomedical (e.g. cardiovascular risks) and behavioural factors (dietary habits, physical activity etc.), psychosocial factors (e.g. discrimination), and health care (e.g. adverse events). Furthermore, she has studied the effectiveness of possible strategies to prevent these inequalities from arising, through randomised controlled trials (e.g. culturally targeted behavioural intervention to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus), natural experiments (e.g. effect of urban regeneration programme on mental health), developmental evaluations (e.g. role of a knowledge broker in development of public health policy at the local level) and process evaluations (e.g. on conditions for a successful development of intersectoral local health policy). She works with scientists from a wide range of disciplines, including social sciences (such as public administration, anthropology, sociology and ethics), epidemiology, health promotion, and clinical sciences (cardiology, psychiatry). Stronks’ training as both a social scientist and an epidemiologist enables her to cross boundaries between disciplines. Moreover, to ensure that her work is used to tackle health inequalities, she works closely with stakeholders in relevant policy sectors and public health practice, particularly at the municipal level.

Key publications
  • Nierkens Vera, Hartman Marieke A., Nicolaou Mary, Vissenberg Charlotte, Beune Erik J. A. J., Hosper Karen, van Valkengoed Irene G., Stronks Karien Effectiveness of cultural adaptations of interventions aimed at smoking cessation, diet, and/or physical activity in ethnic minorities. a systematic review PLoS ONE 2013;8 (10):e73373 [PubMed]
  • Jongeneel-Grimen Birthe, Droomers Mariël, Kramer Daniëlle, Bruggink Jan-Willem, van Oers Hans, Kunst Anton E., Stronks Karien Impact of a Dutch urban regeneration programme on mental health trends: a quasi-experimental study Journal of epidemiology and community health 2016;70 (10):967-973 [PubMed]
  • Ikram Umar Z., Snijder Marieke B., Fassaert Thijs J. L., Schene Aart H., Kunst Anton E., Stronks Karien The contribution of perceived ethnic discrimination to the prevalence of depression European journal of public health 2015;25 (2):243-248 [PubMed]
  • Peters Dorothee, Harting Janneke, van Oers Hans, Schuit Jantine, de Vries Nanne, Stronks Karien Manifestations of integrated public health policy in Dutch municipalities Health promotion international 2016;31 (2):290-302 [PubMed]
  • Agyemang Charles, Meeks Karlijn, Beune Erik, Owusu-Dabo Ellis, Mockenhaupt Frank P., Addo Juliet, de Graft Aikins Ama, Bahendeka Silver, Danquah Ina, Schulze Matthias B., Spranger Joachim, Burr Tom, Agyei-Baffour Peter, Amoah Stephen K., Galbete Cecilia, Henneman Peter, Klipstein-Grobusch Kerstin, Nicolaou Mary, Adeyemo Adebowale, van Straalen Jan, Smeeth Liam, Stronks Karien Obesity and type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africans - Is the burden in today's Africa similar to African migrants in Europe? The RODAM study BMC medicine 2016;14 (1):166 [PubMed]
All Publications
Curriculum Vitae

Postgraduate qualifications
1987 MA health sciences (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
1990 MA political sciences (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
1997 PhD medical/health sciences (department of Public Health, Erasmus MC)

1997 registered as an epidemiologist

Positions held

2017 - professor of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine of the University of Amsterdam (UvA); department of Public Health of the Academic Medical Center (AMC/UvA); 

2006 - 2017 professor of Public Health, and chair department of Public Health of the Academic Medical Center (AMC/UvA); 

1997-2005 assistant professor/ associate professor (from 2001 onwards), department of Social Medicine of the Academic Medical Center (AMC/UvA); from 1998-2001 coordinator of national research programme on (evaluation of) interventions and policies to reduce health inequalities

1995-1997 staff member Scientific Council for Government Policy, The Hague

1987-1996 scientific researcher at the department of Public Health Erasmus University Rotterdam; PhD research project

Research programmes

Prof. K. Stronks PhD (Social inequalities in health)

Karien Stronks (co)leads two research lines:

[1] social epidemiology; co-leader: dr A.E. Kunst

[2] promoting the health of disadvantaged populations, co-leader: dr J. Harting

This research lines aim to contribute to the scientific evidence that is needed to support policies aimed at fostering and improving the health of populations at local, national and international levels. Particular attention is given to the health situation and health care needs of migrants from poor countries, ethnic minority groups, and (other) socio-economically deprived groups.

Social epidemiology 
Socio-economically disadvantaged groups face a higher burden of disease, disability and early death. To formulate policies to tackle this higher burden of disease, evidence is needed on the causes. For this, it is not sufficient to study the role of traditional risk factors for disease, such as smoking and overweight. We also need to assess how the occurrence and the impact of such factors is influenced by the underlying “social determinants of health”, such as socio-economic position, migrant status, and working and living conditions. Our aim is to generate evidence on the way these determinants influence health. This line includes HELIUS (multi-ethnic cohort study among three generations), URBAN40 (quasi-experimental study on the health impact of a neighbourhood programme), and internationally comparative studies among migrant populations. In the so-called ABCD study (multi-ethnic birth cohort study) particular attention is given to social determinants operating early in life. 

Promoting the health of disadvantaged populations
Substantial improvements in future public health can only be realized through primary prevention of health problems. If preventive activities are to be effective in real-world populations, including disadvantaged populations, the social characteristics of these populations should be taken into account. This requires, first, preventive services to be targeted to disadvantaged groups and their situation. Secondly, the underlying social determinants, such as a low socio-economic status, could also be tackled directly, mostly through measures from other policy sectors than the health (care) sector, including income or educational policies. The aim of this research line is to generate evidence of the effectiveness of both types of interventions. First we evaluate the effectiveness of targeted preventive interventions. DHIAAN, a project on preventing diabetes mellitus among Hindustani Surinamese, can serve as an example. Second, we evaluate the processes and population health impact of intersectoral health policy. For example, one study evaluates the functioning of ‘health brokers’ in four Dutch municipalities.

M.B. Snijder PhD

E.J.A.J. Beune MSc PhD
H. Galenkamp-van der Ploeg PhD
M. Nicolaou PhD
W.E. Waterlander PhD

Current research funding
  • AMC
  • Amsterdam UMC, Locatie VU Medisch Centrum
  • Gemeente Amsterdam, GGD
  • KWF Kankerbestrijding
  • Nederlandse Hartstichting
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • ZonMw