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Mental health is the result of the complex interplay between genetic, psychological, environmental and other factors and experiences. The exposome concept, referring to the totality of exposures from conception onwards, is emerging as a very promising approach in studying the role of the environment in human disease.

The EU-funded Equal-Life project will develop and utilise the exposome concept in an integrated study of the external exposome and its social aspects and of measurable internal physiological factors and link those to a child's development and life course mental health. This will be done using a novel approach combining exposure data to characterise, measure, model and understand influences at different developmental stages. The goal is to propose the best supportive environments for all children.

 

Video 'The Equal-Life Project: Creating a healthier future for all children'

Equal-Life: creating a healthier future for all children.
Before and after you are born, you feel, hear, eat, drink, see and breathe many things in your environment.
Inside the belly of your mother, the place where you are born, and the home where you grow up.
But it does not stop there.
Think about where you live, is there a lot of green space?
Are there many buildings around you, or many cars passing by?
And how is your social life?
Is your family big or small?
Do you feel cared for?
Do you feel safe?
Do you play with friends outside, or do you spend most of your time online?
Our environment contains things that interact with us and each other all the time.
Altogether, we call these things 'the Exposome'.
Remember the Green Park you like to play in?
This is part of your physical exposome.
And your friends in school?
They are part of your social exposome.
And you know what?
Our body and its functions can have an impact on your life too.
We call that the internal exposome.
The whole exposome influences our development and health, both positively and negatively.
This is what the project 'Equal-Life' is interested in: how the exposome affects the mental health and cognitive development of young people like you.
It is important to study this, because mental health challenges and difficulties in learning can have lifelong effects on young people's quality of life.
Also, the differences in health between people in Europe are growing.
This causes unfair differences in health and opportunities in the future for young people.
Equal life tries to understand how we can use knowledge about the exposome to make environments safer and healthier for them, instead of environments being a danger to young people's development and growth.
When we understand this relationship between the exposition and mental health and cognitive development, we can think of different ways to improve the environments of all children.
What do we need in order to do this?
We need information from children and young people in Europe about how they live, sleep, feel, eat, play and learn.
We also need researchers, cities, schools and health organizations to work together.
Equal-Life already has information for almost 250,000 young people from seven countries.
We will also collect new data in different countries and age groups.
Thanks to projects like Equal-Life, we will know better how to make living environments places where all children and adolescents will have equal opportunities and safeguard their future health.
We aim to create a healthy environment for young people.
Learn more about the project at: equal-life.eu or email us directly at: info@equal-life.eu.

European Human Exposome Network

Equal-Life is part of the European Human Exposome Network comprised of nine projects selected from the same call. Through its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the European Union has helped to create a European Human Exposome Network.

The initiative represents a significant EU-endorsement to the relatively young field of exposome research, involving a total of 126 research groups from 24 countries and a working budget totalling 106 million euros. The common goal of the nine large-scale research projects of the European Human Exposome Network is to understand health impacts during lifelong environmental exposures.

Among them is Equal-Life, which will be coordinated by RIVM. RIVM also participates in the ATHLETE project, which focuses on the negative effects of different chemicals to cognitive development and its underlying mechanisms.

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EU flag with text "This project has received funding from the European Union's  Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under  grant agreement No 87474"