He is Professor Emeritus of Public Health of the University of Helsinki and affiliated with the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, Finland. His past affiliations include the World Health Organization, University of Kuopio, Finland, Danube-University Krems in Austria and Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kuwait. He qualified as MD in 1973, MA in Sociology in 1975 and Ph.D. in Public Health in 1975.
His research interests include epidemiology, aetiology, and prevention of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. He has been involved in several epidemiological studies in many regions of the world. He initiated the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study (DPS) that demonstrated a 58% reduction in incidence type 2 diabetes (T2D) with lifestyle intervention. This finding was confirmed by similar trials elsewhere. He developed a simple, non-laboratory T2D risk score FINDRISC (FINnish Diabetes RIsk SCore) that has been validated and applied widely in other countries.
He has been involved in studies attempting to find out environmental and genetic risk factors with a primary focus on diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors. The most prominent study is the FUSION on T2D genetics that has been carried out in Finland in collaboration with NIH and several US universities since the mid-1990s. He was the Principal Investigator of the WHO DIAMOND Project mapping the incidence of childhood T1D worldwide including >100 countries. He also established the DECODE/DECODA studies that have assessed the importance of postprandial glucose for detection and prognosis of T2D and other disturbances of glucose regulation. He has contributed to many controlled trials in hypertension, dyslipidaemia, cardiovascular disease, and served as a member of Steering committees and Data monitoring committees.
He has been acting as a member several American Diabetes Association (ADA), International Diabetes Federation (IDF), European Society of Cardiology (ESC), and WHO committees and expert groups on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Currently, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Primary Care Diabetes.
He has received many prestigious scientific awards including Peter Bennett Diabetes Epidemiology Award from International Diabetes Epidemiology Group, Hans Chiari Memorial Lecture Award from Austrian Stroke Research Society, UNESCO-Hellmut Mehnert Award on aetiology and prevention of diabetes, Camillo Golgi Award and Claude Bernard Award from EASD, Kelly West Award and Harold Rifkin Award from ADA, Geoffrey Rose Award from ESC, Fredrick H. Epstein Award and David Kritchevsky Award from AHA, Epidemiologist of the Year, Finnish Epidemiological Society, Khwarizmi International Award from Iran, Great Sheik Hamdan International Award in Diabetes Research from Dubai, Folksam Prize in Epidemiological Research from Karolinska Institute, Sweden, Paul Cromme Lecture Award, Primary Care Diabetes Europe, Menarini Award/Joseph J Hoet Memorial Lecture, World Congress on the Prevention of Diabetes and Its Complications, and GB Morgagni Prize and Gold Medal on Metabolic Disease Research from University of Padua. He has over 1700 peer-reviewed publications with >140,000 citations and h-index 167.