Profile photo Sanne Nijhof

Sanne Nijhof

Associate Professor - medical

Strategic program(s):


Sanne was trained as a medical doctor (2006), pediatrician (2015) and pediatrician social pediatrics (2020) at the UMC Utrecht. In 2013 she obtained her PhD on her thesis entitled: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Adolescents – treatment, features and epidemiology.

She adapted an existing face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy into a novel e-health application under supervison of Dr. van de Putte and Prof. Bleijenberg, which led to the Fatigue In Teenagers on the interNET (FITNET) trial discussed in her thesis in 2013.

In 2013 she received a two-year fellowship for clinical research by the UMC Utrecht, which enabled her to expand her research and to focus on fatigue in other childhood conditions: rheumatology, pulmonology, and oncology. She probed the severity and impact of fatigue and pain, and translated these insights into tailored e-health interventions.

From January 2016 onwards she works as a post-doc, and from October 2019 as associate professor, appointed by the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital to develop these innovative web-based platforms, and to empower personalized care and clinical research for patients/families with a pediatric chronic of life-threatening disease.

Her research is driven by the hypothesis that (chronic) childhood diseases influence many, if not all, aspects of a child’s life - not only physical, but also social, emotional, educational and economical. This proved an important driver in her professional career as a clinician-researcher. 

Her most recent project is an interdisciplinary project within the UU Dynamics of Youth strategic theme, which focusses on play (‘Healthy play, better coping’). Play is an important part of behavior and is thought to be vital for the healthy development of children. Chronic illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, juvenile arthritis and cancer can negatively impact children’s physical, social-emotional and cognitive development, beyond the actual illness itself.
This project aims to build a strong network of scholars from various disciplines across the UU campus to help answer our main question on different levels: what is the adaptive functionality of play in children with chronic diseases?
In this consortium there is argued and worked on stimulating or modifying play behavior, either through preventive programs, (applied) games or interactive technology which could enhance adaptation of the child to the stress of a chronic illness to promote short- and long-term cognitive, social-emotional and psychomotor development. They strive for systematic research focusing on healthy play which will help young patients to better cope with the negative consequences of their illness and stimulate healthy development.

Specifically, the relationship of (impaired) play behaviour with psychological functioning of chronically ill children is further assessed in the national interdisciplinary eHealth Junior consortium (awarded with an NWA-ORC grant of 4.9 million, Sanne is one of the three core applicants), in order to provide a solid foundation of knowledge that aid in designing transdiagnostic and personalized eHealth interventions for chronically ill children. Targeted play- and game-interventions will be developed and evaluated to improve resilience in diseased children.

The future goal of Sanne Nijhof is to make evidence based e-health platforms available to all children, treating their fatigue and pain and daily consequences associated with various somatic conditions.

Research groups

Social Pediatrics

Research aim

To help children with chronic conditions grow into healthy, resilient adults, preventing long-term sequelae. Of special focus is early identification and intervention of fatigue as disease-transcending symptom with major impact on well-being.

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Recent publications

A dyadic perspective on parent-child dyadic coping in children with a chronic condition Reine C. van der Wal, Sanne L. Nijhof, Luca M. Leisten, Elise M. van de Putte, Cornelis K. van der Ent, Alinde W. Hindriks-Keegstra, Guy Bodenmann, Catrin Finkenauer, Merel M. Nap-van der Vlist
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2024, vol. 181
Applications of the experience sampling method (ESM) in paediatric healthcare Marije van Dalen, Anne Snijders, Evelien Dietvorst, Katrien Bracké, Sanne L. Nijhof, Loes Keijsers, Manon H.J. Hillegers, Jeroen S. Legerstee
Pediatric Research, 2023, vol. 95, p.887-900
The Permutation Distancing Test for dependent single-case observational AB-phase design data Anouk Vroegindeweij, Linde N Nijhof, Patrick Onghena, Elise M van de Putte, Sanne L Nijhof, Jan Houtveen
Behavior Research Methods, 2023, vol. 56, p.2569-2580
Fatigue mediates the relationship between emotional and cognitive functioning in children post-cancer treatment Juliette E M Greidanus-Jongejan, Marloes van Gorp, Raphaele R L van Litsenburg, Femke K Aarsen, Merel M Nap- van der Vlist, Sanne Nijhof, Martha A Grootenhuis
Pediatric Blood & Cancer, 2023, vol. 70
First Experiments with an Applied Gaming Intervention for reducing Loneliness of Children with Chronic Illness Dionysis Alexandridis, Sander C.J. Bakkes, Sanne L. Nijhof, Elise Van De Putte, Remco C. Veltkamp
2023, p.1-11
Dynamic modeling of experience sampling methodology data reveals large heterogeneity in biopsychosocial factors associated with persistent fatigue in young people living with a chronic condition Anouk Vroegindeweij, Lisa Levelt, Jan Houtveen, Elise M Van de Putte, Nico M Wulffraat, Joost F Swart, Sanne L Nijhof
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 2023, vol. 167

Fellowships & Awards

2018: Elisabeth Steyn Parvé Programma

2018: Toekomstbestendig gamen.

2018: PROfeel and research app

2018: Healthy play, better coping

2017: Healthy play, better coping

2017: Doorgaan met CVID

2017: Digital interaction

2016: Pro Active

2015: Fitnet-plus portal

2013: Klinisch onderzoekstalent

2012: Maarten Kapelle Tweeling publication

External positions

Dynamics of Youth community chair 'Thriving & Healthy Youth', UU FSS Algemene Sociale Wetenschappen