2023 Retrospective: Embassy of Health

We are used to thinking about our health and care in an economical way. In terms of money, payments, hard cash, currency, or in Dutch: valuta. The word valuta can be traced back to the Latin ‘valēre’. That meant something like ‘being healthy or strong’. But you can, of course, take a much broader view of health than just in financial terms.

Type Update
Published on 30 November 2023
Part of Embassy of Health
2023 Retrospective: Embassy of Health
Part of Embassy of Health

 “Either way, health is a social thing, something that arises between people. We want to create more space for this notion,” says Marleen van Bergeijk, creative lead of the Embassy of Health, in an interview you can read here. During DDW23, the Embassy provided this space in a variety of exciting ways. 

For example, the ‘Gezondheid als valuta’ (Health as currency) exhibition at DDW23 showed from the perspective of the power of design which values result in health and how we can appreciate, or reappreciate, health as our greatest asset. By examining language, in visual form or otherwise, this exhibition went beyond transactional thinking, exploring how focusing on other, often immeasurable, values ​​can lead to new solutions and pathways to health. In this Embassy Tour, Marleen uses a number of exhibition projects to explain how this quest is progressing.

Intimate Implant - Bertrand Burgers - credits: Max Kneefel

Intimate Implant

Several sensory stimulating designs could be encountered at the Embassy exhibition. Intimate Implant by Betrand Burgers is a perfect example. Intimate Implant starts out from this thought: imagine coexisting with an implant in your body for a whole year. An implant that helps you heal and grow new body parts. A close relationship develops in which you care for each other, up until the point the implant sacrifices itself as intended. Not long after, you receive an emotional farewell message from the implant, reflecting on your connection – and the bond between humans and technology. This speculative experience is about the emotional relationship between mankind and technology, a topic that continues to receive little attention in science. In this WDE Spotlight, find out more about designer Betrand Burgers and Intimate Implant.


Metacarpus – winner of the Future of the Body design competition – also presented future visions of our body. In this case, the evolution of our hands as a result of, among other things, digitisation and climate change. “The main aim is to get people thinking about whether these are futures they would like to live in or not. Are our hands becoming too weak because of digitisation and touching flat screens? Should we instead be going back to our origins as primitive man in order to recondition our hands for survival?” Designer Stefan Boerkamp addressed such questions with a design that could be seen in the Embassy of Health during DDW23.

Public quiet spaces

Health isn’t just a matter of physical condition: it also plays a more important role in our society, as could be seen in a variety of ways in the expo at DDW23. For instance, the Public Quiet Spaces project responds to the growing need for moments of reflection in a demanding society. Here, reflection means: a moment in which you step out of ‘the ordinary’ and reflect on yourself and the world around you. At a time when 1.3 million people in the Dutch workforce are suffering from symptoms of burnout, the relevance of this initiative is becoming increasingly clear.

Smoke-free living for everyone

Another common topic covering all facets of society that was highlighted at DDW23 was smoking. Everyone in the Netherlands has the right to live a long and happy life. However, not everyone has the same shot at this. Major differences in health and the way in which health is related to other aspects of our lives and society make this an important and complex task. In the Smoke-Free Living for Everyone programme, Muzus collaborates with Pharos, the Public Health Service (GGD), professionals from the social and healthcare sectors, other key figures and experience experts.

The face of trust

During several workshops, tangible steps were already being taken on relevant issues at play in terms of health. Data and associated privacy are thorny issues that were discussed during ‘Het gezicht van vertrouwen’ (The Face of Trust) workshop. Data is often referred to as the new gold. The lubricant of the economy and the means to solve all kinds of problems (or identify these before they arise). Healthcare could also benefit from smart use of data. But what data are we talking about? Medical data? The data from your sports app? Where is this data? And can anyone just access it? A lot of questions with very few answers so far. In this session, participants worked together to investigate the topic of data.

Financing based on intent

The topic of ‘money’ also frequently came up in a number of workshops and talks at the Embassy of Health during DDW23. This included the ‘Financiering vanuit de bedoeling’ (Financing based on intent) workshop. Transformation requires that healthcare and support connect with – and be guided by – the needs and actions of people themselves and their caring communities. The ‘Financing based on intent’ initiative examines the obstacles and develops the tools to truly put people first. In a cycle of gaining insights, and subsequently putting these into practice, learning and developing with all those involved: all levels in interaction with each other: residents’ initiatives, Field Labs, professionals, local and nationwide system players, researchers and education.

Health language

The Health day concluded with a conference at Natlab in Eindhoven. During this conference, various insights were shared from workshops that had taken place earlier in the day. Also discussed were dilemmas that different agencies face when making the transitions that are required. “For example, several colleagues are currently collaborating on projects whose objectives have nothing to do with health. And those projects are being assessed on the basis of those objectives. In those cases, it’s all about square meters, asphalt and deadlines. Basically speaking, this isn’t the language of healthcare we use here,” Richard Dumont, policy advisor at the province of North Brabant, aptly said on the Natlab stage.

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

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