scientific Background AND OUTLINE

The exposome encompasses the life course exposures from lifestyle behaviours and from the environment, and receives growing attention in epidemiological research with respect to its relationship with a variety of diseases. Multidisciplinary and longitudinal research combining high quality individual-level data with environmental-level data is urgently needed to identify and better understand their complex relations with each other and with disease risk across the life course.


In the Netherlands, high quality and longitudinal data at the individual as well as the environmental level exist. High quality cohorts across the Netherlands may provide longitudinal individual-level data on lifestyle behaviours and health/disease outcomes. A great variety of environmental (geo) data is available, but these data are currently scattered and measured at varying spatial scales.



The aim of the Geoscience and hEalth Cohort COnsortium (GECCO) is to provide access to high quality environmental exposure data, ranging from air pollution to walkability, and to enrich cohorts and administrative databases with these data. This enables researchers from multiple disciplines to address a wide variety of research questions on environmental determinants of lifestyle behaviours and NCD risk.



The stepwise approach to implement this facility is to:

  1. Gather, combine and provide access to existing geographic information system (GIS) data in a FAIR data hub;
  2. Enrich longstanding and renowned Dutch cohorts with these GIS data by secure and local linkages; and
  3. Provide guidance to researchers with regard to data access and in environmental epidemiological analyses.

GECCO’s support towards mapping the exposome of over more than 635,000 respondents, spread out over all municipalities in the Netherlands,  provides huge statistical power and potential for enabling (longitudinal) studies on the nuanced interrelationships between the environment, lifestyle behaviours and disease risk.



GECCO started in November 2018 and is financially supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), and Amsterdam University Medical Center



More background information and technical details about the operationalisation of the exposures can be found in our dedicated publication.