The health differences and life expectancy between the inhabitants of Rotterdam South and the rest of Rotterdam are large. But improving health and well-being in South Rotterdam is complex, because individual circumstances, socio-economic context and living environment strongly influence each other. The aim of SPRING is to bring disciplines together to make Rotterdam Zuid a healthy and resilient neighbourhood.
“The socio-economic health disparities in the Netherlands continue to grow. The life expectancy of people with a low level of education is as much as six years shorter than that of people with a high level of education; and in Rotterdam Zuid it is mainly people with a low level of education who live there,” says Professor of Person Centred Healthcare Jane Murray Cramm. “We need to do something about that. I think the approach SPRING has chosen is the best way to contribute to the health of certain groups that we cannot reach through other types of research.”
Together with residents
And what is that way? “The beauty of the project is that we look at the whole picture. To the role of both the social and physical environment and the individual in relation to healthy behaviour and well-being. We conduct research with residents themselves, in citizen science. We experiment with interventions through various living labs in the district. From Delft they also look at the built environment: it too plays an important role in people’s health and well-being. A simple example: are there enough safe cycle paths? Medical specialists from Erasmus MC then monitor health. And even AI is used to help residents make better choices.
Together with companies
Companies also play an important role in SPRING. “We already know that questionnaires often do not work at all well with people with a low level of education and also with various migrant populations,” adds Murray Cramm, “because you exclude certain groups that you do want in your research. We are now working with a company that has developed smart shirts and smart plasters that allow us to measure everything from blood pressure, air quality and stress. We will find out a lot more as a result. She thinks the time is right for this, for this kind of research project. “More and more researchers are realising that we really need each other, if we really want to have a social impact.”