Our Focus and Mission

A healthy society is happier and more productive and is a key driver of economic growth. Investing in people’s health therefore, means investing in society. In this 21st century, the improvement of population health continues to be a challenge. In the Western countries, and increasingly also in developing countries, chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer as well as new unknown disease, replace the burden of infectious disease. The prevalence of the latter has dropped in most countries due to for instance improved sanitation, better nutritional quality and medical and technological innovation.

At the chairgroup Health and Society, we focus on societal relevant health issues. Most emerging health issues have a complex nature, meaning that issues arise from the interplay between individuals, groups or communities and factors within their socio-ecological context. The analysis of these issues as well as the road to solutions, require input from multiple scientific and societal disciplines. For this, our research and education uses a multi- and interdisciplinary approach, working together with natural and social scientific disciplines, health professions, health policy and industry.

Our research program is built around the key areas of the social environment of health, the built and natural environment and lifestyle. Examples of relevant issues concern changes in the nature of disease and societal changes. For instance the rise in non-communicable disease such as obesity, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. And societal developments such as aging populations, globalization, health inequalities, changing consumption patterns and changing roles of governments at national and international level.

We use three approaches to health issues. Firstly, the Ottawa Charter for health promotion, that specifically addresses the socio-ecological context of health. Secondly, the life-course perspective that relates to the notion of health development during the lifespan. Lastly, the innovative salutogenic approach to health, which examines and encourages factors that keep people healthy, rather than looking at pathogenic factors which cause disease.

Our mission is to analyze the interaction between lifestyle and the social and physical environment. The analysis concerns both the identification of causes of disease as well as the identification of the resources and assets for health. The results of this analysis are used to design and evaluate strategies to facilitate health development towards quality of life.

The staff members of the chairgroup Health and Society coordinate and lecture diverse courses in the Bachelor and Master programs Health and Society. You can find more detailed information about the education programs, our courses and our staff in the other end of this brochure.

We hope you will find the topics in on our website inspiring. If you would like to know more about our research or education, or exchange ideas with us, simply contact a member of our team. We will be happy to discuss your thoughts.

Prof. dr. Maria Koelen