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Centre for Public Health in Economics and Business

Faculty of Economics and Business
Events Symposia

May 2016 - My health, my responsibility

with a little help from…


The Healthwise Expertise Centre of the University of Groningen and the UMCG organised their joint annual spring symposium on Friday 20 May 2016 on the theme ‘My health, my responsibility'. Managers, professionals and researchers from healthcare, academia and administration were cordially invited to this meeting. The spring symposium offered a varied programme of lectures and workshops by academics and professionals from practice.

Over the past decades, the relationship between people's health and their economic environment has changed substantially. Where the relationship between doctor and patient used to be static, there is more individual control these days. Different actors may assist in a person’s self-management of their physical, emotional and social wellbeing, including a variety of tools available today for monitoring our health, adjusting our diet, etcetera. In addition, organisations, such as schools and companies, can help us by stimulating healthy choices. This shift of responsibility towards the individual requires people to be aware of the many options and to actually bear or be enabled to bear the responsibility. This broadened outlook on health offers concrete opportunities for government, healthcare and business.

Bearing this in mind, the spring symposium focused on the potential roles of government, the care sector and businesses in helping people, i.e. citizens, patients, dependants and consumers, to take responsibility for their own health. Dr Gerda Feunekes , Director of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, opened the symposium with a keynote lecture explaining how the Nutrition Centre fulfils its role regarding food. Food and exercise were also the central themes of the various workshops and the closing debate.

Moreover, this symposium shed broad light on the issue of ‘own responsibility’ from the new, more dynamic definition of health as ‘the ability to adapt and to self-manage given the physical, emotional and social challenges in daily life’ (Huber et al., 2011). The workshops were connected to this theme and studied the concept of own control from four different angles. One session highlighted the medical perspective, exploring how caregivers can help patients take responsibility for their own health through, for example, self-management; another highlights the role of business, discussing what companies can do to stimulate healthy choices; the third addressed the role of municipalities; and the last one the influence of technology.

The day was concluded with a critical debate about the limits of personal responsibility, led by Prof. Koert van Ittersum , Professor of Marketing and Consumer Well-being and covering ethical issues as well.

Looking back (keynotes)

Keynote Lecture by Gerda Feunekes, Director of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre – Healthy food: how to reach the consumer?

Gerda Feunekes’ keynote lecture made clear that sustainability has become an important issue for the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, alongside health. Apart from informing consumers about healthy food, it has now also assumed the task of informing them about the origins of food and the sustainability of the production methods used.

When shopping, consumers generally attach the most importance to taste, price and convenience, hardly a surprising outcome since these factors are all perceivable in the ‘here and now’ and thus affect choices directly. The benefits of health and sustainability, on the other hand, are only perceivable in the long term.

The challenges for the Netherlands Nutrition Centre are 1. To change behaviour, which is difficult to achieve, and 2. To reach the lower social strata.
Over the past 1.5 years, the Netherlands Nutrition Centre has been developing a new strategy called ‘Dreaming of 2025’, when, ideally, everyone will possess the knowledge and skills to make healthy, safe and sustainable nutrition choices, i.e. to choose good food. Our surroundings, both at home and outside, will have been adapted in such a way that the healthy and sustainable alternative is always the easy one, making it the obvious choice. In this scenario, we will not waste food anymore and will know about its origins.
The Netherlands Nutrition Centre aims to inspire and convince people that each step in this direction is good for them.

Presentation by Gerda Feunekes (only available in Dutch)

Parallel sessions

1. With a little help from care providers

During this workshop, Prof. Gerjan Navis, professor, internist and nephrologist at the UMCG, and Jelmer Humalda, research physician at the Department of Nephrology of the UMCG, discussed in more depth the challenges in healthcare and how they are reflected in non-clinical problems. From a nutrition perspective, a previous study among kidney patients was revisited, resulting in a surprising new view on the roles of nutrition and medication, with an increased role for nutrition, using the example of a Salt module that can measure a patient’s salt intake and provide suggestions for adjustments. A discussion of the development and the results of these applications ensued, yielding new insights into the complexity, multidisciplinary development and important role of patient input.

Presentation by Prof. Gerjan Navis, UMCG

2. With a little help from business

This workshop, led by Koert van Ittersum, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Well-being, discussed individual responsibility in making the right decisions regarding one's own health. Central to the discussion was the question of how businesses can stimulate consumers to make healthy choices, for example, by introducing new, healthy products or by narrowing the price gap between healthy and unhealthy food.

On behalf of health insurance company Menzis, Jeroen Pronk, Marketing Manager, presented its savings and loyalty programme ‘SamenGezond’ and outlined how the company strives to contribute to disease prevention and the health of its clients by stimulating and rewarding healthy behaviour. One example of this is the loyalty points that clients receive if they quit smoking and that can be redeemed for discounts on items like running shoes. This is a good example of how health insurance companies can offer a little help to individuals in taking responsibility for their own health. Furthermore, Pronk offered insight into the funding of a healthcare system in flux, in which the prevention of first world, lifestyle diseases is becoming increasingly important. He also posed the question of who pays for this prevention and who reaps the benefits, as those paying are not necessarily the same as those benefitting.

Subsequently, Laetita Mulder, Associate Professor at FEB, discussed the downside of personal responsibility, introducing her topic of how health-stimulation programmes might lead to moralisation, stigmatisation and, possibly, discrimination of individuals who are overweight. With an example from research, she illustrated how the hiring decisions of HR students, i.e. future HR professionals, might be negatively influenced by the overweight of applicants, regardless of their job skills. Another example showed how moralisation and stigmatisation of overweight in society might cause extra emotional eating by those with overweight, thus actually producing an adverse effect in the struggle against it. Mulder used these examples to underpin that there is a downside to ‘own responsibility’.

Presentation by Jeroen Pronk, Menzis (only available in Dutch)
Presentation by Dr Laetitia Mulder, FEB, UG (only available in Dutch)

3. With a little help from technology

In this workshop, Bart Verkerke, Professor of Biomedical Product Development at the UG/UMCG, and Hille Meetsma, Director of VitalinQ, shed light on a number of technological developments that might help people stay healthy longer.

Verkerke is involved in the SPRINT project, aimed at improving and restoring the mobility of the elderly and prolonging their good health, both at home and in the workplace. A large number of companies, rehabilitation centres, universities and insurance companies are participating. Monitoring systems have been developed to identify risks at an early stage, as well as interactive training programmes to prevent loss of mobility, training programmes for home-based rehabilitation, and smart prostheses and orthoses. Serious-gaming principles are also being used to keep these systems and aids attractive. The starting point, however, is always the user, who is involved in the entire path, from basic idea to final production. After 5 years, the results include several patents, subsidies, publications, orthoses and prostheses.

Meetsma presented VitalinQ, a portal where users can formulate individual goals and wishes through their own profile and social environment. Users are guided towards a healthy lifestyle in an accessible manner. The users’ awareness of their own lifestyle increases as they receive validated academic as well as personalised information about food and exercise. VitalinQ is available as a web-based application and as an app for mobiles or tablets. Its focus is on managing your own health. While previous developments were always expensive, overly difficult and lacking a link to medical data, VitalinQ integrates medical data, is easy to use and cheap. Especially in the beginning, the fun factor is important. The more you fill in, the more customised your advice becomes. Otherwise, you will only receive general advice. A recent plan, developed together with Jumbo supermarkets, is to enable consumers to choose healthy products only instead of from the full product range in the Jumbo web shop.

Presentation by Prof. Bart Verkerke, UG/UMCG (only available in Dutch)
Presentation by Hille Meetsma, VitalinQ (only available in Dutch)

4. With a little help from the town

Presentation by Karin Kalverboer, ZIF
Presentation by Hermien Bazuin, City of Groningen (only available in Dutch)
Presentation by Gonny Westerhuis, Humanitas


Their health, their responsibility?

A debate about the thesis ‘Their health, their responsibility’ concluded the symposium. The participants were Dr Els Maeckelberghe, UG/UMCG; Dr Donald van Tol, UG; Dr Hugo Velthuijsen, Quantified Self Institute; Hille Meetsma, VitalinQ; and Gerda Feunekes, Netherlands Nutrition Centre.

Theses (only available in Dutch)

Last modified:09 April 2020 4.15 p.m.
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