Mini Symposium Research for Health and Society and Inauguration Prof.dr. Maria Koelen

Prof.dr. Maria Koelen appointed as professor Health and Society a new chair at Wageningen University

With great public interest, Professor Koelen argued at her inauguration on March 10 this year, that too often it is assumed that our lifestyle, such as eating habits and physical activity, is determined by individual choices and characteristics. The influence of the social and physical environment on a healthy lifestyle is underestimated and requires more research and a multidisciplinary approach.

Prior to the inauguration of Professor Koelen, a well attended symposium took place with prominent speakers from the U.S., UK, Finland and of Wageningen University.

With the new chair Health and Society, Prof. Koelen focuses on the interaction of individuals with their social and physical environment. According to her, in policy and research health is considered from the perspective of disease, risks and deficiencies. Measures usually focus on short term effects, including changes in individual knowledge and behavior or on medical factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Also in relation to the ageing population, science and policymakers focus mostly on preventing diseases and loneliness, while elderly themselves associate health with a supportive social environment.
Working longer is not just an economic necessity, but can also have positive effects on health. According to Professor Koelen a new, realistic view of aging is needed. 

To explore and exploit the influence of social and physical environment on a healthy lifestyle (of the young and the old), the new chair Health and Society aims at a coordinated approach from various disciplines such as public health, environmental planning, social sectors, nature management and industry. The study programme Health and Society is based on the same approach.

Before her appointment, Prof. Koelen (57) was associate professor at Communication and Innovation Studies at Wageningen University.