Written Summary 2020 Sarphati Symposium

Written summary of the 2020 Sarphati Symposium by Thijs van Schijndel

Moderator Tessa Roseboom (biologist and professor) opened the second edition of the Sarphati Symposium by highlighting the important steps which have been taken the last year. ‘We are happy with all the progress that has been made and the research that has been conducted. Now, it’s important to translate this into practice. To give every child in Amsterdam a better chance in life’.

For this reason, Simone Kukenheim (deputy mayor of the city of Amsterdam) was invited to provide the opening word.

One of my greatest priorities is the realisation that the 1000 days in a child life (even before pregnancy) are important. We know this because of research, but now the time has come to invest in actions. What can we do in these early childhood years and with their mothers. This is not just about physical but also mental attributes. This needs to reflect in policy, to provide more resilience to mothers and children’. The deputy mayor mentioned several successful examples of cooperation between policy and science in regard to public health issues in the city of Amsterdam. For example: the Amsterdam Healthy Weight programme and how the HIV epidemic was tackled.

The first plenary speaker was Paul Looman from expertise centre Pharos. His presentation addressed socio economic health disparities in the Netherlands. ‘Through research, we’ve already gathered great amounts of knowledge on smoking during pregnancy. The fact that this still occurs in certain segments of our population is a very big problem’. Intergenerational patterns, Socio Economic Status (SES) and gender are examples of variables that at least partly explain the health disparities in the Netherlands. Looman emphasized that policy and research could do more for the vulnerable groups in our society. ‘The 1000 days programme is a successful example, but we need some kind of superman to get this going’. Looman also advocates that big steps could be made within the domain of healthcare, where the role of culture remains relatively underexposed. ‘I have the feeling that in local practice, we tell people a lot, give them apps and information. But we rarely check if that’s really what people need’.

The second plenary speaker was Shelley van der Veek from Leiden University. Her presentation was centred around feeding patterns of young children and the feeding styles of their parents. If we experience a lot of uncertainty, we get stress and even chronic diseases. Therefore, great importance lies in teaching our kids that the world is a safe place they can explore. ’Habits that kids develop within the first two years of their lives have long term effects. Kids tend to like new tastes with 4-18 months. 18-months to 6 years: food neophobia sets in (about 40-70% of the kids go through this phase)’. Parents often differ in their style, trying to ‘combat’ food neophobia. Van der Veek explained the audience that ‘coercive feeding strategies’ may cause long term problems like overeating or overweight. So what should parents do? The answer lies in ‘Responsive feeding’: optimal level of control while comforting the child. It means recognising hunger and satiety cues, and using those cues to start and stop feeding.

The Sarphati Symposium hosted 5 workshops sessions, giving the attendees a chance to actively participate in discussions concerning public health. Roseboom and Mahieu hosted a session which was centred around the question: How do we stop the intergenerational transfer of poverty? Another workshop introduced us to ‘Urban Mental Health’, a new centre which seeks to address urban issues through ‘complexity science’: trying to embrace complexity instead of isolating single variables. Apart from the plenary sessions and workshops, several researchers took the opportunity to showcase their current research through poster presentations.

The second edition of the Sarphati Symposium proved to be a fresh, activating and informative meeting where a structural search was made for the connection between research and practice. Concluding, a general consent was put to words by Arnoud Verhoeff: ‘Last year, our dream was to have a new symposium and look back on questions like: do we have a cohort? Do we have collaboration? Do we have people collectively working in the city of Amsterdam? These things happened. We are very happy that there is a need for datacollections and biobanks, that brings people from different disciplines together. Next year we don’t just want infrastructure, we want to be delivering as well. Also we hope to contribute to health and policy: that we present results that involve all parties’.

Image credits

Header image: Sarphati Amsterdam

Icon image: bron: cadmess creators