'We are not just talking about healthcare itself, but also about the broader social environment'

How do you create a healthy society? A broad question that also requires a broad approach. In South Holland, both the challenges and the knowledge are present. The Healthy Society program aims to combine that knowledge, and recently launched a strategic plan with the organizations involved.

Suzan van der Pas
Dr. Suzan van der Pas

Universities and colleges know how to find each other around this theme. Dr. Suzan van der Pas, lecturer in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences Leiden, is a member of the executive board of the Healthy Society program and explains how the strategy is structured. "With five overarching themes that are interrelated, we have defined the most important 'drivers' for a healthy society.

1. Healthy upbringing and aging from an integral perspective: This theme focuses on finding integral solutions to age-related transitions and health problems for different age groups.

2. Sustainable care for health promotion with advanced data technology: The second theme focuses on using data technology to give patients more control over their own care and improve the efficiency of the healthcare sector.

3. Personalized solutions for healthy behavior: This theme concerns the pooling of knowledge and expertise from several disciplines to develop inclusive and sustainable interventions.

4. Healthy physical and social environments for all: Thoughtful urban planning can promote stronger social cohesion and healthier habits.

5. Design and organization of a healthy society: This theme focuses on the governance and design of healthcare. Combining knowledge from various disciplines and involving citizens are crucial here.

Within the five themes, representatives of various scientific institutions, such as TU Delft, Erasmus University and Leiden University, will independently organize activities and events.

   Alone you can't solve it anymore, the issues have become too complex."

Interdisciplinary approach

Van der Pas emphasizes the great potential of the knowledge institutions in South Holland. And also the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations. 'Alone you can't solve it anymore, the issues have become too complex, we call them wicked problems. The integration of scientific knowledge with practical, professional knowledge of colleges and experiential knowledge of involved citizens is also necessary to make progress. These collaborations connect theory with practice and contribute to the success rate of health initiatives.

Senioren BredaCombining views from different disciplines is crucial to addressing complex problems in public healthcare. An example is the reduced physical activity of many adolescents: it is known that this has major consequences later in life, but how do you tackle this? This needs to be looked at not only from the medical sciences but also, for example, from the behavioral sciences, from a socioeconomic perspective and perhaps even by urban planners.

That interdisciplinarity is an important principle of the Healthy Society program, Van der Pas said. The five themes of the strategy cover broad topics; for example, there is attention to the life course and the environment, but also to renewal, innovation and the organization of healthcare.

   It is therefore important to better organize informal forms of healthcare and support as well."

fietserThe governance and steering of a healthy society is also addressed in this strategy. What is meant by this? Van der Pas: "Fact is that the healthcare sector is under increasing pressure because of, among other things, a shortage of staff. It is therefore important to better organize informal forms of healthcare and support as well. So we are not just talking about healthcare itself, but also about the broader social environment. For example, a senior-friendly environment can ensure that people can live at home longer."

"TheKennisplatform Langer Zelfstandig Wonen aims to make the voice of Leiden seniors heard, for example through the participation of seniors in Leiden in neighborhood-oriented improvements. These kinds of changes in the organization of healthcare and welfare require cooperation with municipalities, housing corporations, citizens and other local stakeholders. And also utilization of expertise in spatial planning, people's living environments, and new technology.'

The Healthy Society program aims to combine knowledge between universities, UMCs, colleges and social stakeholders in South Holland. The program is led by Prof. Andrea Evers of the Leiden University Faculty of Social Sciences and is a collaboration between Medical Delta and Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities. Regular meetings are organized and the white paper "Towards a Healthy Society for All" was published in 2022.


More information:
Website Healthy Society