Research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards

Program coordination by Nivel expert professor Michel Dückers, PhD

Michel DückersAt some point in life anyone can be confronted with events or circumstances in their social and physical living environment that will have consequences for their health. We will have to be alert to the possible impact on public health of 'what may go wrong'.

In addition, we should prepare as much as possible for the challenges that individuals, professionals, organizations, the healthcare system and the society will face in such situations. With its research Nivel contributes to sharpen this focus.

Points of focus 2022–2024Points of focus 2022–2024

  • Investigating - continuously - disaster and crisis management of governments, healthcare institutions and other parties; how do they fulfil their responsibility in crisismanagement as laid down in Dutch law (see the 'Safety Regions Act of the Netherlands' below)?
  • Monitoring health risks and learning essential lessons from the short-term and long-term health threats the Netherlands have tot deal with. Climate change is accompanied by temperature increases, extreme weather and flooding. The COVID-19 pandemic has not let us go. Long-term crises such as the gas extraction issue and the benefits affair cause stress for those affected and damage confidence in the government.
  • Alerting society, healthcare givers and policy makers about newly occuring health risks. Think of other infectious diseases than flu or COVID-19 and of newly occuring disasters. And this can easliy be the case in the densely populated country of the Netherlands, where inequality is growing and emissions and nuisances from intensive livestock farms, agriculture, industry and traffic is becoming a larger issue every day.

Safety Regions Act of the Netherlands

The Dutch Safety Regions Act states that governments and healthcare institutions are responsible for disaster relief and crisis management. They must be prepared for the consequences of disasters, crises or terrorist attacks.
This calls for attention to limiting health damage to victims, relatives and care providers keeping an eye on short and long-term effects; being aware of the formative assistance that is needed at certain times.

International cooperation with NivelInternational cooperation with Nivel

Disasters and threats to human health do not abide by national borders. In this research program we actively collaborate with colleagues abroad, in the context of several international projects and publications with a focus on disasters and infectious diseases.

  • Take a look on the right, here you'll find the international projects and a selection of the international scientific publications we participate(d) in.
  • Furthermore, Nivel is a member of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM). Program coordinator Michel Dückers is a member of the WHO Thematic Platform for Health-Emergency and Disaster Risk Management Research and the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. For more information on this area of expertise or on Nivel as a partner in research, please contact Michel Dückers.

Environmental hazards and disastersEnvironmental hazards and disasters

We investigate how governments, healthcare institutions and other organizations fulfill their responsibility for disaster and crisis management, as laid down in law, with a focus on public health.


In this research we combine severlas point of focus: 

Focus on health consequences of disasters: for several years we have been monitoring the health of the victims of disasters with high national impact in the Netherlands: the fireworks disaster in Enschede, the café fire in Volendam (both Dutch city’s). Furthermore we did research on events and disasters with a high local impact: the shooting incidents in the Dutch cities of Utrecht and Alphen aan den Rijn, the long-term soil remediation of a former asphalt factory in the municipality of Olst-Wijhe and the gas quakes in Groningen.

Focus on living environment and health risks: we continuously conduct research into people's living environment and its impact on their health. In doing so, we use the data from the Nivel Primary Care Database and we deploy our various panels. With our research we inform and support policymakers and care and service providers. Examples of health risks we investigate are:

  • living in the vicinity of industry, intensive livestock farming and earthquakes due to gas extraction
  • infectious diseases and imminent outbreaks thereof
  • electric shock weapons in police practice

Core questions of our research:

For many threats, the issue is not so much 'if' they will actually occure, but rather ‘when’ they will occure. Therefore it’s essential to be alert and prepaired
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Connection between science, policy and practiceConnection between science, policy and practice

The research results and advice that we provide are are of value to of public health services, ministries and local and international governments, in tackling (potential) crises with a public health dimension. By working together we safeguard the connection with science, policy and practice.

  • Some of our scientific partners
    • Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS)
    • ARQ National Psychotrauma Center
    • University of Groningen
    • Several universities at home and abroad
  • Partners on long-term base
    • National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)
    • Institute for Physical Safety (IFV)

When there is a concrete issue, we work together with specific authorities.

Societal impactSocietal impact

All our research is driven by a societal concern:


Because of the many different interests of those involved in a disaster or threat, our research and its translation to practically feasible solutions is a complex.
On the one hand there are the more everyday exposure issues where a focus on on the instant health interests and economic interests is needed. On the other hand there are the large-scale threats, such as disasters and infectious disease outbreaks, where coordinated collective action is crucial. Therefore collaboration with stakeholders is crucial.

Nivel's research teamNivel's research team

The team of Nivel researchers on the research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards consists of:

Meer wetenWant to know more?

For more information on (conducting research together with Nivel in) this specific area of expertise, please feel free to contact our expert and program coordinator Michel Dückers (on the right).
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Dückers, M. Research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards. From: [Last update 12-February-2024; consulted on 24-June-2024]. URL: