Chronic Health: It’s only human?

Type Update
Published on 9 July 2020
Part of Embassy of Health
Retrospective 2019: Embassy of Health
Part of Embassy of Health

In 2019, technology can make anything possible. In theory, we can develop a pill, chip or new body part for almost every complaint. And many procedures are already performed more efficiently by robots than by humans. But how happy are we about this?

Imagining what the future could look like helps us determine the quality of ‘new care’. This is where designers are unsurpassed. During the Embassy of Health 2019, we used the power of design in the search for a new balance between technology and nature, between perfection and imperfection, and between formal and informal care. Approximately 70,000 visitors visited the Embassy of Health.

Dilemmas in healthcare

With a collection at the cutting edge of science, art, technology and design, the Embassy of Health presented the dilemmas healthcare faces. Dilemmas about the manipulability of our bodies for instance, that through innovative interventions, medicines, artificial organs and exoskeletons, seems ever more normal. But how perfect do we want it to be? And isn’t it precisely our vulnerability that makes us human? Or the question of how we are going to organise our futures as we will increasingly have to take care of ourselves and each other. How can we create an accessible network of informal care in the neighbourhood, that collaborates with the formal care institutions and relieves and supplements them?

Embassy of Health, photo by Jimena Jauna
VIMS by Adi Hollander, photo by Cleo Goossens

Visitors were encouraged to ponder on and make suggestions about these kinds of dilemmas. Many exhibitors were present throughout the week and engaged actively with the public. Animated conversations abounded and visitors hung around the exhibition for extended periods. The exhibition ‘Chronic Health: It’s only human’ was an obvious trigger for substantive discussion. Work presented by the exhibitors at the exhibition can be found in the Embassy of Health Catalogue.

Programme components

The Embassy of Health covered a number of areas. In addition to the previously mentioned exhibition ‘Chronic Health: It’s only human’, U CREATE organised the programme C*re the system. Daily debates explored the design of a system in which ‘chronic health and happiness’ is the norm. Speakers including Alexei Wagner (Medical director Emergency Department Stanford Medical School) and Emilie Wagner (Design strategist Stanford D-School) addressed the question of how and for what you should be training healthcare and welfare professionals of the future.

The Creative Industries Fund NL organised the inspirational session Chronically Healthy for those involved in people-oriented care innovation. They discussed example projects, in which designers, healthcare and welfare organisations and users worked together in co-creation. The objective of the meeting was to stimulate new partnerships based on the theme and took place within the scope of an open call for Chronically Healthy. Speakers included Chantal Walg (Anders Gezond), Roel Schoenmaker (Cascoland), Nicky Liebregts and Michiel Hulsbergen (Dialogue Trainer).

There was also an inspiration session for interested parties from the domain of healthcare. They enjoyed a guided tour of the exhibition, followed by a substantive discussion about the future of healthcare. The speakers were Paulien Melis and Sanne Muiser.

On Friday the Embassy of Health Theme Conference took place. Reon Brand (principal researcher Philips Experience Design) introduced the audience to four emerging futures. Led by host Lex Bohlmeijer, Marlies Bongers (gynaecologist Máxima MC), Lisa Mandemaker (speculative designer) and Joanneke Weerdmeester (Radboud Universiteit) discussed the role of technology in healthcare and the human aspect. Following on from this, Melanie Peters (director of the Rathenau Institute), Gijsbert van Herk (chairman of the board for Stichting Humanitas), Frank Kolkman (experimental designer) and Joost van Wijmen en Joost van Wijmen (designer) discussed the preconditions for systemic changes and the implementation of innovations in healthcare.

In addition, 488 guests visited the Embassy of Health as part of a DDW programme theme route. They included two international delegations from China and Germany and there was a tour of the Top Sectors with figureheads from the sectors and SGs and DGs from different ministries.

Lab Romanticism by Lisa Mandemaker


The publication list comprises articles in which the Embassy of Health was mentioned or the focal point. The complete publication list can be found on our press page. In its programme de Toekomstbouwers, broadcasting company VPRO also paid attention to Kuang Yi Ku, an Embassy exhibitor.

An innovative podcast series about the World Design Embassies also appeared. In the episode about the Embassy of Health, Frank Kolkman (experimental designer) and Jetske van Oosten (curator) reflect on a healthcare that is much more accessible, much fairer and evenly distributed. Van Oosten also published an article about vulnerability in healthcare.

chapter-arrow icon-arrow-down icon-arrow-short icon-arrow-thin icon-close-super-thin icon-play icon-social-facebook icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube