A healthy living environment positively affects the quality of people's lives. The City of Utrecht aims to create such a 'healthy urban living' environment for its citizens by collaborating with different stakeholders and focusing on areas like innovation, health economy and infrastructure. Healthy Urban Living is also about creating an environment in which sustainable and innovative entrepreneurship can flourish and projects can emerge. These stories show what this is like in Utrecht.
Health Hub Utrecht
Utrecht is the Happiest and the Healthiest region in the Netherlands. This is what the Health Hub Utrecht aims to achieve for everyone by 2030. The Health Hub Utrecht is a network of different partners and municipalities in Utrecht Region. Partners in the Health Hub work together to keep healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone. Jelle van der Weijde* says: “We do not want to focus only on health as the absence of sickness, but our focus is also on well-being and happiness. Then you also talk about financial health, social health, and mental health, for instance. The aim is to provide the right care at the right place by the right people”.
Why the Health Hub?
The health care sector in the Netherlands suffers from many problems especially the shortage of qualified people as well as the high costs of health care and welfare. A partnership was the answer to solve such complex problems. Many Health and well-being organizations are located in Utrecht region. That enabled the Health Hub to create a powerful network of many partners who work from different perspectives and expertise. They work together to develop innovative solutions for various problems in the Health care and well-being sector. Health Hub works on regional and (inter)national levels. The ambition of the Health Hub is to become an example to other regions in The Netherlands as Jelle van der Weijde says: "We want to invent health of the future so that other areas can learn or adapt our ideas to their own region”
Partners of Heatlh Hub Utrecht in Manchester in an inspiration trip (2017)
After an inspiration trip to Manchester, partners in the Health Hub realized that Health care in other countries experiences more or less the same problems as in the Netherlands. For this reason, partners in the Health Hub visit other countries to inspire and learn from others as the inspiration trips to Helsinki (2018) and Vienna (2019). The Health Hub network also welcomes various cities and companies who want to learn from the experience of Health Hub Utrecht. This is because reflections from outsiders who share the same field of professions are lessons and inspirations that can broaden the network to a whole different level.
Health Hub Utrecht has adopted a bottom-up approach where various stakeholders have been invited to discuss and choose the three most important areas that need to be improved in the healthcare sector. Eventually, coalitions were formed around each area. The three coalitions of the Health Hub are Prevention, Digitalization, and Labor Market. Van der Weijde says: “The three coalitions are connected to each other in order to transform healthcare into a more inclusive approach between health and well-being”. He adds: “the base of changing is always looking at each other and helping each other in a way that we do not lose each other, but we also do not go too fast”
Different municipalities and organizations were invited to be part of the Health Hub agreement. The partners, for instance, are Knowledge institutes such as Utrecht University, University of applied sciences, the National Organization for Environment and Health (RIVM), but also the national Health Ministry, Education Ministry, and NGOs that represent citizens. The network of Health Hub is very rich with different areas of expertise which in return enables partners to work effectively and innovatively.
Several projects and workshops are being developed and implemented by each coalition. For example, E-Health and digitalization for general practitioners and sharing innovations for elderly care by helping patients to use Health apps. Another example where partners work together to stimulate a healthy lifestyle and look for new work methods in care.
The next level of agreement and partnership will take place next June 2019 where new organizations will join the “coalition of the willing” as van der Weijde calls it.