Dr Esther van Sluijs

Group Leader – MRC Epidemiology Unit

Programme lead – Behavioural Epidemiology

Email: esther.vansluijs@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk
Telephone: 01223 769189

Twitter: @EvanSluijs

UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR)
MRC Epidemiology Unit
University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine
Box 285 Institute of Metabolic Science
Cambridge Biomedical Campus


  • PhD in Public Health and Epidemiology (EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam) – 2004
  • MSc in Human Movement Sciences (VU University, Amsterdam) – 1999

Background and experience
Esther’s PhD focussed on a randomised controlled trial evaluating a theory-based physical activity promotion programme in Dutch general practice in (PACE). Upon finishing her PhD, Esther moved to Cambridge to join the newly established MRC Epidemiology Unit as a Career Development Fellow. Here, she led on the development of the research on children’s and adolescents’ physical activity with a focus on identifying correlates and determinants  to contribute to the development and evaluation of physical activity promotion interventions. Esther has been involved in the initiation of various projects as well as the extension of projects to allow the study of physical activity correlates. She also contributed to NICE guidance on “Promoting Physical activity for Children and Young People” and the IOC consensus statement on the “Health and Fitness of Young People Through Physical Activity and Sport”.

Current work and interests
Esther leads the ‘Behavioural Epidemiology‘ group in the MRC Epidemiology Unit, which aims to develop and evaluate interventions to promote physical activity in young people, and use observational research to further understand where, when and how physical activity interventions in young people may be targeted. Guided by the ecological model of behaviour, various domains of influence are considered in both observational and intervention research. This includes psychological influences, as well as socio-cultural and environmental influences. Esther is involved in various projects focussed on assessing personal, socio-cultural and environmental determinants of physical activity behaviour (such as SPEEDY, CHASE, ICAD, ROOTS, SPACE, Southampton Women’s Survey, EPIC), as well as intervention trials to promote physical activity (such as FAB, GoActive, CASE, and FRESH) and systematic reviews of the literature.

Current group members:


Professional memberships and roles

  • Associate Editor of International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Chair of the Institute of Public Health Bradford Hill seminars organizing committee
  • Member of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity


Current and previous grants

  • The impact of a family-based physical activity promotion programme on child physical activity: feasibility and pilot of the Families Reporting Every Step to Health (FRESH) intervention (2016-2019). PI: EMF van Sluijs, NIHR-PHR, £428,841.
  • A cluster randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the GoActive programme to increase physical activity among 13-14 year-old adolescents (2015-2019). PI: KL Corder. NIHR PHR, £1,025,631, (co-applicant).
  • Examining the reach and effectiveness of cycle training in schools using the Millennium Cohort Study (2014-2016). PI: A Goodman. ESRC, £65,391 (co-applicant).
  • Opportunities within the school environment to shift the distribution of activity intensity in adolescents (2015-2018). PI: EMF van Sluijs. Department of Health Policy Research Programme, £324K.
  • Characterising patterns and changes in physical activity in older people and their determinants and consequences. (2013 –2016). PI: SJ Griffin. Lifelong Health and Wellbeing, £793K (co-applicant).
  • Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) (2013-2018). PI: NJ Wareham. UKCRC (MRC), £4.2M (co-applicant).
  • A randomised controlled trial evaluation of the effectiveness of three minimal human contact interventions to promote fitness and physical activity among NHS hospital employees (Get Moving) (2011-2013). PI: S Sutton. NIHR Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme, £248K (co-applicant).
  • Diet and Physical Activity Public Health Research Centre (UKCRC Centre of Excellence) (2008-2012). PI: NJ Wareham. UKCRC (ESRC), £5M (co-applicant).
  • Social and environmental influences on physical activity (2006-2009) (incl. SPEEDY study). PI: SJ Griffin. National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI), £392K (co-applicant)

Organisational affiliation
MRC Epidemiology Unit