We know there are large health differences among the various population groups in Amsterdam. For example, we know that people of South-Asian Surinamese origin are more likely to develop diabetes, and that high blood pressure is more common among Ghanaians and African-Surinamese people than it is among the Dutch. We also see a chronic disease like asthma more often in people of Turkish and Moroccan origin.

However, we know little or nothing about the causes of these health differences. Knowledge about this is urgently needed so that health problems can be dealt with more appropriately. An example: doctors have seen that treatment for lowering high blood pressure is not as effective for some population groups as it is for people of Dutch origin. Once we know what causes this, we can target the treatment in a much more focused way. Then health care services in Amsterdam will also be better able to adapt their prevention efforts to what is needed. And when we know why there is less cardiovascular disease among Moroccans than among the Dutch we will have made a great leap forward in treating and preventing these diseases.

This is why the Academic Medical Center (AMC) and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD Amsterdam) started the HELIUS study in 2010. HELIUS stands for ‘Healthy Life in an Urban Setting’, and does research into the causes of many common chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (including diabetes) and infectious diseases. HELIUS also studies the mental health of the different groups.