‘Towards Healthy Societies' meeting: connective and enriching

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, 19 January, on campus Woudestein at Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM).

Prevention during the first 1.000 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.

Interactive marketplace

Between the keynote presentations, there were numerous laptop and poster presentations to visit in the foyer of the Erasmus Pavilion. This interactive market provided an opportunity to discuss the latest insights in the Healthy Society field. For example, Isra-al-Dahir (PhD candidate Leiden University) and Jasper Faber (PhD candidate TU Delft) are investigating within the scientific program Medical Delta eHealth & self-management for a healthy society why it is that preventive interventions are often not used by people in unfavorable socioeconomic circumstances. By first accurately identifying needs and thresholds, they and their fellow researchers developed an e-Health intervention that better fits the daily lives of the target group.

During their presentation, Angelique Weel-Koenders (rheumatologist and special professor ESHPM) and Deirisa Lopes Barreto (senior researcher Maasstad Hospital) argued for a shift from volume to value when it comes to determining the quality of treatment outcomes. To this end, they developed an innovative dashboard that can be used to personalize patient treatment, so that treatment quality can then be interpreted from the patient perspective.

Artificial intelligence that works

After the interactive market, Prof. dr. Alessandro Bozzon (TU Delft), professor of Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, opened the final keynote presentation with the statement "more than 90% of artificial intelligence initiatives fail. That's because we expect too much from AI. The problems that we as humans are not yet getting solved, AI cannot solve for us, but it is often thought so. This is because, for example, it is very difficult to operationalize ethical issues within AI. In addition, with complex AI technology, it is difficult to identify where in the process an error occurred. In order to develop AI that does work and contributes to a healthier society, we need to think carefully about constructing data bases with which to feed AI. For example, according to Bozzon, we should create datasets by region. In addition, AI developers should make mistakes made public so we can learn from them. With this, we could already make great strides, for example in the field of logistics or sustainability within healthcare.

Exchange of knowledge and expertise

After the presentations and flash pitches by researchers from Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam, there was plenty of time for questions from the audience, and a lively discussion ensued, led by Professor Andrea Evers. A recurring theme was that scientists and policy makers are starting to understand each other better thanks to this type of connecting event, as previously held in Leiden, but that they are not yet speaking the same language. To address limitations, there was a collective brainstorming about sustainable and long-term collaborations that go beyond the duration of PhD contracts, such as a scientific consortium. It is also important that within educational programs, in addition to research skills, there is also room for implementing interventions and monitoring their effectiveness. A good example is the Healthy Society minor that students can take starting this year.

Working together towards the future

This inspiring and connecting afternoon demonstrated that cooperation in the field of health and well-being is not only possible, but also increasingly well underway. With each other's contributions in mind and a common goal in mind, we can develop effective health policies that are well aligned with people's perceptions in order to face a healthier future.

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