RIVM, the Interfaculty Research Institute for Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Science at Utrecht University (IRAS), the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) are conducting a large-scale study on the health of people living in the vicinity of livestock farms (the Livestock Farming and Residential Health programme).

The programme consists of various sub-studies. The first study, ‘Intensive Livestock Farming and Residential Health’, investigated whether there were diseases that occurred more frequently in the area surrounding livestock farms than elsewhere. The Livestock Farming and Residential Health programme (VGO) was subsequently launched. VGO-III, the latest programme on livestock farming and residential health, started in January 2018. 

VGO-I and VGO-II, the first two phases of the research programme

Research on the link between livestock farming and residential health was initially only conducted in the Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant and Noord-Limburg, where many people live near one or more livestock farms. During the 2010-2013 research period, both negative and positive associations were found between human health and residential proximity to a livestock farm. Positive associations found in that study included lower figures for asthma and allergies. One of the negative associations that was identified is an additional risk of pneumonia among people living near goat and/or poultry farms.
Updated figures for the 2014-2016 period were published in October 2018 (IJzermans, et al.). To determine whether correlations between health and livestock farming could also be found in other regions, the research in this period was expanded to include areas in the Dutch provinces of Gelderland, Utrecht and Overijssel. The initial results were confirmed in these regions: researchers saw an additional risk of pneumonia in proximity to goat farms, for several consecutive years and using various research methods. Researchers therefore assume that people who live near goat farms are generally slightly more at risk to develop pneumonia than people who live around other livestock farms or people who do not live near any livestock farms.

Research on causes of pneumonia in the areas surrounding goat farms (VGO-III)

In 2019, follow-up studies were launched to determine why people living near goat farms were more likely to contract pneumonia. All follow-up studies encountered serious delays due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Some sub-studies were postponed. The results are expected to be published in 2024.

Read more about the sub-studies and research progress

Research partnerships