Environment and Health over the Lifecourse

Web Image for ISGlobal Research Programmes

The Environment and Health over the Lifecourse research programme aims to conduct high-quality integrative research to expand knowledge on the causes and mechanisms of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with a focus on environmental, radiation, occupational, lifestyle, social, infectious, and genetic risk factors throughout the life course, from prenatal to late adult life. Key outcomes include respiratory, cardiovascular and immune health, neurodevelopment, and cancer. Our ultimate goal is to prevent and control NCDs, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Specific Goals

  • To assess the prevalence and extent of risk factors and exposures associated with NCDs, while advancing exposure assessment methods.
  • To understand the causes, development, course and mechanisms of NCDs, with a focus on respiratory and immune health, neurodevelopment and mental health, cardiovascular and metabolic health, birth and pregnancy outcomes, and cancer.
  • To quantify environmental exposures and NCDs burden, globally, and in low-and-middle income countries and vulnerable populations (e.g., pregnant women, children, elderly, socioeconomically disadvantaged).
  • To inform, improve and promote interventions and policies for primary and secondary prevention of NCDs, including preparedness and resilience to health and climate emergencies.

We build on large population-based, clinical and occupational cohort and case-control studies as powerful platforms for etiological research, and incorporate innovative approaches such as the exposome, omics biomarkers, imaging, and data science. Work in the programme ranges from local to national and global efforts in high and low-and-middle income countries, with international leadership in areas such as exposome, radiation, child health, cancer, and respiratory health research. We have a demonstrated record of research and training in epidemiology and in translation of research findings into policy. Within ISGlobal, successful collaborations are in place with the Severo Ochoa groups, the Climate, Air pollution, Nature and Urban Health and the Global Viral and Bacterial Infections Programme.

Main Lines of Research

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiometabolic diseases, cancer, and respiratory and mental disorders, are responsible for much of the disease burden and mortality around the world and at all ages. In the current context of demographic and environmental changes, and growing impact of unhealthy behaviours, there is an urgent need to address the environmental and lifestyle factors influencing NCDs.

Children’s health is considered a priority at the international level. Our Childhood and Environment line of research focuses on evaluating the effects of environmental pollutants on children’s health, with particular emphasis on exposure during pregnancy and the first year of life. We led Birth Cohorts (INMA, BiSC, Helix), and Birth Cohort Networks (Lifecycle, Athlete).

Among the environmental exposures studied in the programme, radiation (both ionising and non-ionising) is of particular interest given that it is ubiquitous and that applications (in medicine, in the general environment, and in industrial and other occupational settings) are growing rapidly. The potential health impact of these exposures has raised considerable concerns among public health and radiation protection professionals and the public. It is important to adequately evaluate them in order to ensure protection of individuals.

Research Groups

Our Team


  • Judith Garcia
    Judith Garcia Head of the Non-Communicable Diseases and Environment Programme
  • Martine Vrijheid
    Martine Vrijheid Head of the Childhood and Environment Programme, Research Professor and Coordinator of INMA-Sabadell Cohort

Principal lnvestigators of the Programme