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Living Environment

Law Centre for Health and Life

Our physical environment is a major determinant of human health. Recent environmental changes, such as urbanization, climate change, and air pollution, put significant pressure on human health. These so-called ‘wicked problems’ are complex and are often governed by a range of sectors and agents, often acting in silos. Current regulatory approaches are therefore fragmented, which undermines holistic legal solutions that take account of the interdependent relationship between human health and our physical environment.  Key examples are asthma and allergies resulting from air pollution, and antimicrobial resistance driven by agricultural practices (among others). This research line seeks ways in which law can carve out new bonds of solidarity, given the transnational causal relationships that underlie the health impacts of environmental change. This research line also examines how dignity can be guaranteed for those most affected by the wicked human health-environment problem: migrants, children, and people with chronic illness. We work on these challenges in the context of: 

  1. A healthy food environment

Societal Impact

This project works towards legal solutions to diminish health issues concerned with the innovation of ‘health-life’ challenges and in the area of a healthy food environment and regarding innovative local regulatory pathways for diminishing the risks related to obesity.

Links in the UvA community

This research line contributes to UvA’s prestigious interfaculty Research Priority Area:

  • A healthy food environment

    Overweight and obesity cause major health problems worldwide. Obesity is associated with many diseases and conditions such as diabetes and cancer, impacts on mental health and has social and economic consequences. In 2019, 50.1% of Dutch people aged 18 and older were overweight or obese. In cities this problem can be most acute, especially with regard to children. 

    The layout of the physical environment influences the health of residents. Unhealthy food is a growing problem nationwide. The physical environment of the average Dutch person stimulates to consume unhealthy food and to exercise little. This is also referred to as the "obesogenic environment". This obesogenic environment is named as an important cause of the nationwide increase in overweight and obesity.

    A healthy food environment makes an important contribution to the prevention and reduction of overweight and obesity and can thus significantly improve individual health. However, there are many questions about what legal instruments that cities/municipalities have at their disposal to make the food environment healthier, in view of possible limitations of national and international laws and regulations (ex. spatial planning legislation). This research line aims to provide a better insight into the legal options for ensuring a healthy food environment in urban environments. We take a global-to-local approach and work in close connection with the Amsterdam public health department and those of Den Haag, Ede, Utrecht and Rotterdam on finding legal solutions where the rubber meets the road.


    Affiliated researchers

    Dr. mr. A. (Anniek) de Ruijter

    Faculty of Law


    Mr. H.B. (Hannah) van Kolfschooten LLM

    Faculty of Law