Health inequalities are increasing, the number of chronically ill people is rising and health issues are becoming more complex. All the more reason to integrate insights from different scientific disciplines into social policy, so that future interventions become more accessible and better connected to people's daily lives.
This message was the focus of the event "Towards Healthy Societies - From resilient governance to digital health solutions," which took place Thursday, Jan. 19, on the campus of the Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM).
The meeting aimed to share existing knowledge and make new contacts among themselves. Healthy Society, initiator of this event, is a partnership between Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities and Medical Delta. These two organisations jointly published the white paper 'Healthy Society' last autumn.
Prevention during the first 1000 days of life
After a healthy lunch and a welcome speech by Dean Prof. Dr. Maarten IJzerman (ESHPM), Medical Delta Professor Prof. Dr. Andrea Evers (Leiden University, TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Prof. Dr. Anna Nieboer (Erasmus University Rotterdam), the first keynote presentation by Prof. Dr. Jessica Kiefte-de Jong, Professor of Population Health (LUMC) followed. In her keynote, she made it clear how much impact unhealthy conditions have on a child's development and health.
Children exposed to risk factors such as neglect and obesity are more likely to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle, develop psychological problems more often and have a shorter life expectancy. Despite this being known, there is still much to be gained when it comes to preventing health problems.
Although many good interventions already exist, they are not always sufficiently accessible to those who would benefit most from them. To change this, Kiefte-de Jong says it is necessary to focus on connecting existing initiatives and primary care, and for different organizations to formulate common goals.
Place of residence matters
'Your place of residence matters,' was the central message of the second keynote speaker Prof. Dr. Roland Bal, professor of 'Health Care Policy and Governance' at Erasmus University. For example, life expectancy varies significantly between different neighborhoods in large cities such as Rotterdam. To design healthy cities, it is important to learn from what works well.
As an example, Bal mentioned the Cerda grid in Barcelona, which is designed to encourage social connection and outdoor activities. When developing new designs, it is important not to lapse into a top-down approach, but to use co-creation to meet residents' needs and remove obstacles in Dutch neighborhoods, Bal argued. A good example is the Open City concept as described by Richard Sennett.