Research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards

Program coordination by Nivel expert professor Michel Dückers PhD

Rampen en Milieudreigingen At 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.

Michel Dückers

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.Prof. Michel Dückers PhDProgram coordinator Disasters and Environmental Hazards

Meer wetenInternational 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 our program coordinator Michel Dückers.

Het Nivel onderzoektFocus of Nivel's research

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.


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.

Wet op de veiligheidsregio'sSafety 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.

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.

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

With our research we inform and support policymakers and care and service providers.

Doel Databank Communicatie in de ZorgAims and core questions of our research

Within the research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards we focus on:

Four topics in public health research

  • medical environmental science research
  • infectious disease control research
  • healthcare research related to disasters
  • psychosocial healtcare assistance research

Three core questions on each of these topics

  • What are the short and long-term health effects of specific health threats in the living environment?
  • What support and care is then needed?
  • What does this require from governments and professionals?

One general objective

Contributing effectively and as timely as possible to public health and safety during disasters and environmental threats

Now and in the future

The general objective will remain important in the future, whether it concerns daily physical and social risks in the living environment or broader social, technical and international developments and threats, prompted by, for example, climate change and migration.

Verbinding tussen wetenschap, beleid en praktijkConnection 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.

Maatschappelijk relevantSocietal 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.

OnderzoeksteamNivel'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).
We look forward to getting in touch with you.


Dückers, M. Research program Disasters and Environmental Hazards. From: [Last update 12-November-2021; consulted on 17-January-2022]. URL: