COST selects Radboud University's great leap network to investigate historical roots of health inequalities

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) has chosen the Great Leap Network, an ambitious research initiative led by Radboud University, as a COST-Action. Over the next four years, the network aims to unravel the historical origins and driving factors behind health inequalities across regions and countries in Europe and beyond. This multidisciplinary endeavor comes at a crucial time, with persistent health disparities and recent events like the COVID-19 pandemic underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive research, insights, and action.

The Great Leap Network, as a newly selected COST-Action, will adopt a unique approach by examining health inequalities from a historical standpoint. This interdisciplinary research network, comprising experts from various fields, including history, social sciences, life sciences, and epidemiology, will collaborate to gain a profound understanding of the roots and drivers of health disparities across Europe and other regions. Main proposers are Prof. Angélique Janssens and Dr Tim Riswick from Radboud University.

COST-Actions are renowned for bringing together senior and young researchers to delve into specific topics of their choice over a four-year period. Such networks typically consist of participants from academia, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), public institutions, and other relevant organizations.


The Great Leap Network aims to achieve its mission through the establishment of an international, multidisciplinary collaboration. By pooling expertise, techniques, insights, and data, the network intends to achieve four main goals:

  1. The creation of the first internationally comparable individual-level historical cause of death coding and classification scheme.
  2. The development of innovative analytical tools to analyze individual and aggregated cause of death datasets effectively.
  3. The training of a new generation of young researchers, in particular from Inclusiveness Target Countries, who will be able to work internationally and interdisciplinary on history of mortality and epidemiology.
  4. The generation of insights into how the historical development of inequality in health can be leveraged in current public health policies and practices.

The network boasts the involvement of a wide range of academic experts, along with university and research institutions, government bodies, international health institutes, and organizations such as statistical offices and national archives. Radboud University – specifically the research group Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History of the Radboud Institute for Culture and History (RICH) - takes center stage as the main proprietor of the network, while 101 co-proposers from 26 countries, including Albania, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, and South Africa, actively contribute to the research efforts.

High level of innovation

The Great Leap Network is scheduled to commence its activities in the autumn of 2023. The scientific committee of COST has praised the network's well-considered plan, persuasive data collection methods for comparative research, and high level of innovation. The committee particularly appreciates the integrated multidisciplinary framework envisioned by the project, which brings together scholars from diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, the involvement of non-academic institutional actors and stakeholders has been lauded, highlighting the network's commitment to inclusivity and collaboration.


COST, an organization dedicated to funding research and innovation networks, facilitates the connection of research initiatives across Europe and beyond. By providing support to COST-Actions, the organization fosters the growth of ideas in various science and technology fields through collaboration and knowledge sharing. These bottom-up networks, with a duration of four years, play a pivotal role in advancing research, innovation, and career development for scientists and innovators alike.

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