2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Health

What mindset is needed to achieve a chronically healthy society? What attitude should people, companies and organisations adopt? These questions were central to the Embassy of Health in 2022. Collaboration is the key to bringing about change. This applies to companies and organisations as well as to people. “Everyone is jointly responsible for health,” says Marleen van Bergeijk, designer and curator of the Embassy of Health.

Type Update
Published on 15 December 2022
Part of Embassy of Health
2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Health
Part of Embassy of Health

Chronic health still sounds like a utopian idea. Yet it has been the starting point of the Embassy of Health for six years now. “There is something optimistic about looking at how we can achieve health. It is very different from fighting a disease once it is present,” said Marleen van Bergeijk in the curator interview earlier this year. We are reaching the limits of the current system. Healthcare is becoming impractical and unaffordable. Structural changes are needed, but realising them is difficult.

Changing mindsets

Various innovations are emerging that can improve healthcare in the future. But a different mindset is required to effectively implement these changes. Every year, the Embassy of Health highlights a different theme related to ‘chronic health’. Mindset was the central theme of 2022. These are the three main mindsets required for change: agile, responsible and learning.

Read the curator interview with Marleen van Bergeijk here.

‘Tijdens de pandemie hebben we gezien dat we veel aanpassingsvermogen hebben. Diezelfde flexibiliteit hebben we ook nodig om ruimte te creëren om te experimenteren met meer preventieve zorg.’


Creating a chronically healthy society requires a shift to more preventive care. This is difficult to achieve as long as companies and organisations continue to think within the framework of the current system. An agile mindset is important. “The pandemic helped reveal just how adaptable we truly are. We need the same flexibility to create space to experiment with more preventive approaches to healthcare,” says Van Bergeijk.


The second mindset is: responsible. Because who is actually responsible for the care? The responsibility does not lie with an organisation or with the individual. Everyone is jointly responsible for health. It is not only about a healthy body and a healthy mind, but also about a healthy environment.


A learning-oriented mindset is also necessary to achieve a healthier society. This primarily involves being open to and curious about the perspectives of others. “You often notice that people working together on projects are searching for the key – for that one solution for everything. Sometimes there is not just one single solution. There are so many different people and everyone is looking for something different,” says the curator. 

These different mindsets were the starting point for the the Embassy of Health exhibition. Designers worked with companies and organisations on various projects to see what it takes to really bring about change. They presented their results to the public through interactive installations. Van Bergeijk: “As the world becomes more and more complex, design is becoming increasingly important. Design helps stimulate the imagination.”

View the curator tour with Marleen van Bergeijk here.

Reducing pressure on the healthcare system

For example, the Maxima Medical Center (MMC) and the Trudo housing corporation, together with design studio Sociale Centraal and Studio Marleen van Bergeijk, looked for ways to improve the health of people living in social housing. These included lifestyle programmes, for example, but also increased guidance for people preparing to undergo surgery or other types of support that people need. The Embassy of Health exhibition also focused visitors’ attention on Health Overshoot Day. “We already recognise Earth Overshoot Day, which is the day of the year when humanity has used up all the resources that the Earth can produce in one year. This date is often much earlier than the end of the year,” explains Van Bergeijk. Just like the earth, the healthcare system is also under pressure. “We are hearing alarming reports that healthcare is going to come to a standstill. In some situations, budgets and manpower have already been exhausted while many people still need to be helped.”

Monuments for future m/otherhood - credits: Max Kneefel

Relating to technology

Technology also plays an important role in the healthcare of the future. Visitors saw this during the exhibition. In the Monuments of M/otherhood project, DesignLab (University of Twente) and designer Lisa Mandemaker created an interactive installation about the artificial womb. Van Bergeijk: “Suppose you are born from an artificial womb. How do you relate to that technology? Most people relate to their human mother, but what if you grew out of technology? That raises a lot of questions about technology and about life.”

View the WDE Spotlight with Lisa Mandemaker here.

Making diseases visible

In addition, the designers of design studio Muzus created an installation to help make rheumatism visible, as it is a disease that affects many people. It is sometimes difficult to deal with this disease, not only for patients but also for relatives and friends of patients. The installation – which was made in collaboration with ReumaNederland – was meant to open up the conversation. The Data Donor Club similarly aims to open up a conversation about data, as data is everywhere and everyone is a carrier of data. But what data do you share? What data do you not? And what happens to shared data? The audience was brought into this conversation. The Data Donor Club was an initiative of AMX-IX, in collaboration with Six Fingers and De Reuringsdienst.

Money and capacity 

Changing mindsets was the premise not only of the exhibition but also of the Embassy of Health conference. The healthcare system is complex and largely organised on the basis of money and capacity. Society is ageing, and the shortage of labour remains. Major structural changes are needed. During the conference, panel members discussed the future of healthcare and the mindset needed to bring about change. 

Mascha van der Voort, co-founder of DesignLab Twente, says: “We need to look much more at the possibilities instead of getting stuck in negative ways of thinking.” One of the possible changes proposed during the conference was the bottom-up design of care. “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,” says Ellis Jeurissen, director of Public Health & Ambulance Care at GGD South-East Brabant. Marieke Rietbergen, founder of Design Innovation Group, agrees: “What if we put people first and build our healthcare system around them?”

Reverse privatisation?

The panel members agreed that the privatisation of healthcare has not contributed to quality. But turning back is difficult. That’s why it is important for everyone to make a little effort to help each other. “We should look more closely at how we can find our own solutions. For example, by setting up forms of housing for the elderly ourselves,” says Godelieve Spaas, professor of new economy at Avans Hogescholen. Looking more closely at informal care was also one of the options mentioned.

Collaboration is key

Elies Lemkes, deputy for agriculture, food, soil and general prosperity in the province of North Brabant, was also a guest at the conference. The province of North Brabant is one of the Embassy of Health partners. “There is still so much to change. We will not succeed if we continue to think in terms of the current systems,” said Lemkes at the time. She sees digitisation and automation in healthcare as a great development that can help reduce the pressure. 

In addition to the conference, there were also other Embassy of Health events during DDW. For example, attendees could sign up for the Social Sports School Bootcamp. The concept is for athletes to exercise with the elderly in a wheelchair or with a walker. Thus, in addition to physical activity, there is also a social component. Design Innovation Group (DIG) also organised a talk about the Lineaire Lusten Rehabilitation Clinic, the rehab clinic for leaders of the old economy. This mainly focuses on the mental transition to a circular and sustainable society. 

Next year, the Embassy of Health and all affiliated partners will dive deeper into the changing healthcare system and all the specifics and challenges that come with it. Van Bergeijk: “I think it is very important to devote proper time and attention to examining your surroundings. And that you know you have a safety net if things go downhill physically or mentally. It takes time and attention to build that up and to really look after each other, but the benefits of doing so are invaluable. I think that is the key to health.”

Would you like to contribute to the Embassy of Health, or are you curious about future developments? Sign up for the newsletter (at the bottom of WDE homepage), visit the Embassy of Health homepage or contact us.

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