Looking at care differently, the conference of the Embassy of Health opens people’s eyes

Take care together. A promising and, at the same time, complicated starting point. But what does it mean? Helping and supporting each other when necessary, paying attention to patients and clients and being open to change. What mindset is needed to really bring about change? That was the starting point of the conference of the Embassy of Health during Dutch Design Week 2022 (DDW22).

Type Update
Published on 17 November 2022
Part of Embassy of Health
Looking at care differently, the conference of the Embassy of Health opens people’s eyes
Part of Embassy of Health

Care providers really want to help and provide care to everyone who needs it. But behind the hardworking people is a complex system that is largely based on money and capacity. The panellists unanimously agreed during the conference that this is exactly what needs to change. Although that is, of course, easier said than done. Society is ageing, and the shortage of labour remains. The pressure is mounting. But, according to moderator Eva Eikhout, health is not just about healthcare. “It also depends on how we live and treat each other.”

Ellis Jeurissen, Kornelia Dimitrova & Mascha van der Voort - credits: about.today

Look at the possibilities

Ellis Jeurissen, director of Public Health & Ambulance Care at GGD South-East Brabant, Mascha van der Voort, co-initiator of the Design Lab Twente, and architect and researcher Kornelia Dimitrova will discuss changes in the system during the conference. Ellis Jeurissen of the GGD clearly states, “We can forget about more money and more capacity. We have to look for other solutions, for example, informal care.” She says as an example that informal care is much more normal in other cultures than in the Netherlands.  

Mascha van der Voort of Design Lab Twente adds: “We need to look much more at the possibilities instead of getting stuck in negative ways of thinking.” She believes it is important to start a conversation and share different perspectives with each other. “This way, we can learn from each other what we consider important and what we want to keep for the future,” she says. According to researcher Kornelia Dimitrova, thinking about the future and using one’s imagination should be part of education. “That way, we can also apply it in our work and lives,” she says.


So we have to look at healthcare differently, but how do you do that? “Sometimes a disruption is needed to bring about change,” says Van der Voort. She takes COVID-19 as an example. “Education had completely switched to online teaching within a month. While previously, it was always said that online education was not possible.” 

Healthcare is a very complicated system, and health is even more complex. Dimitrova eloquently explains: “Sometimes you have to eat something unhealthy to feel good.” It indicates how different elements, both physically and mentally, are connected. Direct and indirect changes affect various elements, making it a difficult package.

More focused on people

One of the possible changes that emerged during the conference was the bottom-up organisation of care. Now people often have to fill in a lot of paperwork and take several hurdles before they receive the necessary care. That is a lot of work, and there is still quite a large group of people in need of care who really cannot do that. Jeurissen says: “Healthcare is far too focused on policy, rules and administration. It is too heavily based on checking everyone. But what if we assume people are honest and say what they really need? Then we can help people better and faster. We can then do the check afterwards and on a random basis.” 

Conference moderator Eva Eikhout fully agrees. She also needs care herself and sometimes goes crazy with all the forms and the hassle about different pots of money, and she is often sent from pillar to post. In the following panel discussion, designer Dorine Baars, Godelieve Spaas, professor of new economy at Avans and Marieke Rietbergen, founder of Design Innovation Group, will speak. They also agree that healthcare should revolve more around people and less around rules. Marieke Rietbergen: “What if we put people first and build our healthcare system around them?”

Dorine Baars, Marieke Rietbergen, Godelieve Spaas & Eva Eijkhout - credits: Penyue Yang

Care is not a transaction

Godelieve Spaas adds: “We started treating care as if it were a transaction. Because you have the idea that you are buying something, you become more demanding with those involved. As a result, we want to organise care as efficiently as possible instead of as lovingly as possible. The transactions are about being unhealthy or sick; it’s not so much about being healthy.” Dorine Baars cites a practical example of this tendency. “The polio vaccine was released years ago by its inventor for the whole world to use. The recently developed corona vaccine has not been released, and there are still many countries where not everyone is vaccinated yet.” 

They agree that privatisation has not contributed to the quality of care. “But it’s not possible to quickly change a mindset,” says Rietbergen. “Of course, we want to find all kinds of solutions immediately, but I am already happy if we can start shaping a movement.” This concerns not only the current generation but also the future, Baars points out. “We should also look more closely at how we can find solutions ourselves, for example, by setting up our own forms of housing for the elderly,” says Spaas.  

Elies Lemkes-Straver

Big changes

The partners of the Embassy of Health, including the recently added province of North Brabant, will dive deeper into the changing healthcare in the coming year. “There is still so much to change; we will not succeed if we continue to think in terms of the current systems,” says Elies Lemkes, deputy for agriculture, food, soil and overall welfare of the province of North Brabant. She sees digitisation and automation in healthcare as a great development that can help reduce the pressure. The shift to more preventive care can also contribute to this. “But that does require the necessary changes from those involved.”

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