Health, Wellbeing and Society

Health, Wellbeing and Society

Human health is the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental or social challenges. Increasingly, health is considered from a well-being perspective. Athena’s research in this domain focuses on two themes in which all three levels, micro, meso and macro, are addressed:

  • Universal health coverage
  • Patient/client-centered health care

Universal health coverage

Until today, 2 billion people remain deprived of adequate access to health care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). As a consequence, access to health care in these countries continues to be one of the most important social issues of our time. The studies that are part of this theme aim to describe, understand and evaluate the responsibilities, strategies, actions and collaborations with relevant stakeholder groups, such as patients, civil society organizations, pharmaceutical industry and the health sector, to increase access to health care in LMICs, especially for the poor. 

Areas of application include mental health, and maternal health. Apart from designing, implementing and evaluating micro-level interventions to improve health care (e.g. the introduction of mobile phones for use by community health workers in resource-poor areas), research also investigates mechanisms at the meso level, aiming to increase responsiveness at the level of health services (e.g. establishment of social accountability mechanisms for clinic or hospital services) and changes at macro (system) level (e.g. introduction of community-based healthcare or evidence-informed policy making on health programs).

Patient/client-centered health care

At the micro level, involving patients/clients in decision making on care provision, health research and policy making is increasingly becoming accepted as a way of enhancing practical relevance and quality of decisions. Taking a patient/client-centered perspective implies that care, research and policy making are organized around the patient/client as a unique person in his/her context (in contrast to a disease-oriented, mechanistic and reductionist approach). 

It thus requires that (1) professionals from a wide variety of disciplines jointly work together, and (2) a meaningful dialogue takes place between patients/clients, health professionals, researchers, policy makers, etc. in which participants listen to each other, learn about each other’s experiences, and add new experiences to their existing repertoire. However, the communication between professionals and between patients/clients and professionals is complicated by diverging interests, language barriers and the low status given to patients/clients and their experiential knowledge. 

In a variety of projects, interdisciplinary collaboration (also transcending different lines of care) and patient/client participation are facilitated (e.g. in research agenda setting, definition of good care, self management, clinical guidelines and care pathways) at the micro level. Furthermore, studies investigate how patient/client participation can be mainstreamed in organizations such as funding agencies, universities, hospitals, psychiatric clinics, nursing homes and welfare organizations (meso level). Over the past 15 years, by conducting more than 20 design experiments, Athena has developed the Dialogue Model for involving patients/clients/citizens in health research, care and policy.

Current projects

  • Addressing the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases
  • Biopolar Disorder: The ‘Gold-mine’ of non-protocolled knowledge in mental health care
  • Child participation in clinical guideline development
  • Child participation in youth care
  • Child perspective in obesity prevention
  • e-Capacit8
  • Improving access to medicines in developing countries
  • Integrated Care System for maternity care (INCAS) II
  • Intensive Family Case Management in Child Welfare
  • Lao Equity through Policy Analysis and Research Networks (LEARN)
  • Adult ADHD: experiences and perspectives of patients and professionals
  • Monitoring and evaluation of mainstreaming patient participation in Cancer foundation
  • Understanding the impact of non-communicable diseases in the lives of people in some slum communities in Chennai, India
  • Northwest Netherlands aligned: a qualitative analysis into factors of success and failure in a regional network
  • Patient participation in the scoping process of a European clinical practice guideline on permanent vascular access in haemodialysis patients
  • Positioning RIVM in effective communication of uncertain risks
  • Research programme on inclusive development and mental health, India
  • Self management of elderly with cancer
  • Social accountability and maternal health in Burundi, DR Congo and India
  • Stigma Assessment and Reduction of Impact (SARI) project
  • Suicide and psychosocial health in children and young people in India
  • Zicht op Onderzoek: A research agenda for people with visual impairments
  • Monitoring and evaluation of Network Birth Care NoordWest Nederland