Overall, health problems are on the increase, in part as the result of unhealthy lifestyles and an unhealthy living environment, the knock-on effects of social problems such as debt, as well as the ageing of society and increasing medical and social vulnerability. In addition to these and other factors, the number of professionals available in the healthcare sector has been declining for years. Without changes in policy approaches, the changing and increasing demand for care, as well as increasing costs driven by new technology and medication, will continue to rise in the long term and be an ever-increasing burden on public spending. In addition, the differences in health outcomes are staggering, including in our country, and these will continue to worsen. These types of social challenges call for a broad-based approach, addressing them from different perspectives and academic disciplines, in order to improve health for all, reduce discrepancies, and keep the care system robust, inclusive, and affordable.
The care system as currently structured is primarily reactive, having been built on years of history in the pursuit of treating and fighting diseases. The result is that we pay when someone gets sick, rather than working from the premise of investing in the prevention of illness and disease. The changes in our society call for a new way of working: a system that revolves not around sickness and care but rather around promoting health and healthy behaviour, taking into account individual and contextual differences that impact health. This requires more cooperation between care professionals, welfare workers, and community health professionals, as well as more attention to the prevention or aggravation of illness at both the individual (indicated and care-related prevention) and population (universal and selective prevention) levels. Additionally, interventions (lifestyle, welfare, social security, healthcare) need to be better matched to the needs and health risks of individuals. The transformation that will be needed to shift from a reactive to a much more proactive healthcare system will require all professionals and organisations to embrace a learning attitude. This is characterised by the research, teaching, and training within Leiden University’s (LUMC) Health Campus The Hague.