Better healthcare: ‘Everyone can make a difference’

How do we ensure a healthy society, now and in the future? That’s a huge question for which no one has an adequate answer. The Embassy of Health is investigating the possibilities. It will not only concern the healthcare sector but also society as a whole. “Everyone must and can commit to their health and that of others. However, that does not mean that everything suddenly has to change completely,” says Jetske van Oosten, curator of the Embassy of Health. “Sometimes it’s the little things.”

Type Update
Published on 20 September 2021
Part of Embassy of Health
Better healthcare: ‘Everyone can make a difference’
Part of Embassy of Health

‘Chronically healthy’ is the title of the Embassy of Health exhibition. The name refers – with a wink – to the increasing number of chronic diseases. Because what is normal? No one is 100 per cent healthy. “It’s more important to look at how we can support each other. How healthy we feel is certainly not only dependent on the medical care we receive. The quality of the air, the amount of exercise and a good diet are just as important,” says Van Oosten. “Social contacts and a good conversation can also make a difference.” With the Embassy of Health, the curator wants to show that health is a broad concept. Everything around us contributes to our health. 

Combining Forces

We are getting older, and we’re seeing the demand for healthcare increasing in the Netherlands. That has implications for healthcare. “To be able to provide good care in the future, we need to work together more. No one can improve healthcare alone. Everyone has different talents, and we have to combine our forces,” she says. That is an important message that you will see in the Embassy of Health’s exhibition at Dutch Design Week. “We don’t show the final picture of how a healthy society should look. Everything is intertwined, so you don’t know what the end picture is,” explains Van Oosten. You will see twelve people who play a special role in transitioning to a healthier society during the exhibition. “They are certainly not all healthcare workers or designers. They are ordinary people with different jobs, each of whom is committed to health in their own way.”

“We want to show that everyone has it in their power to make a difference, whatever your background or profession. Everyone can do something,” Van Oosten continues.

“When we talk about making society healthier, people often feel powerless. People often have the feeling that they cannot do anything and that it is up to others, for example, the government or large companies. But you can do something. Everyone can contribute. A small gesture on your part can make a big difference for someone else.”
— Jetske van Oosten

Creative thinking

She mentions the Land & Hand project as an example. There, designers brought the hospital into contact with local farmers, and these farmers’ knowledge led to numerous new landscape-linked recipes for hospital food. “The moment those involved get stuck for a while, designers look at an existing situation in a creative way and also involve other, new parties. This gives them new perspectives, such as, in this case, a savoury flan instead of the well-known sweet ones,” says the curator. “Sometimes you have to think differently and break free from existing patterns.”


Breaking through existing thought patterns is also important for the Redesigning Psychiatry project. This project is a network of designers, philosophers, researchers, healthcare professionals and experienced experts who look at a new design of mental healthcare. Together they want to drive the transition to a reliable, accessible and flexible mental health care network. “An important starting point is: imperfection is part of it. But how do we deal with that? It’s about resilience,” she says. “The perfect world doesn’t exist. We have to look at the possibilities together with the necessary resilience.” According to the curator, the power of designers also comes to the fore in this project. “Everyone has a piece of the puzzle, and designers can connect people to put the puzzle together.”

According to the curator, the role of the Embassy of Health is to bring knowledge together and make connections. “It sometimes seems as if we are stuck and that we are not getting any further with the transition to a healthier society. Everything is also related. Which means there is no single solution,” she says. “We want to make the network stronger, ensure that people find each other and can learn from each other.” 

Asking questions

The Embassy challenges you to think about your own health and that of others. “Purely saying that someone should live a healthier life has never made anyone healthier,” says Van Oosten. “The transition of healthcare requires a different approach. For example, it is important to start a conversation and see what we really think is important. That can also vary from person to person. Just because someone is physically healthy does not mean that someone feels healthy. And vice versa, of course.”

Asking each other about what we really think is essential for the future and jointly designing a new action perspective for this is, according to the curator, an important step towards a different care system. “If you know what is important to you, then you look at what is economically feasible and how you can achieve the goals. Now we often do it the other way around, and then it is very difficult to implement changes,” she says. We can convert the feeling of powerlessness into decisiveness by approaching our health as a design task. “Everything has been thought of at some point, including existing systems and legislation and regulations. If we continue to ask questions, we can also make adjustments in that regard.”

The exhibition of the Embassy of Health, Chronic Health, can be seen at Dutch Design Week in the Klokgebouw. Here you can admire all the projects, and it will make you think about your own health and the health of your environment. On Friday 22 October there will be a conference in which several experts will discuss important health issues.

Jetske van Oosten - credits: Stacii Samidin
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