SPRING | Health and wellbeing in Rotterdam South
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.”
The realisation is growing that we really need each other
The identity of an area
Marjan Hopmans is also involved in SPRING, but not as a scientist; she is one of the concept makers at Heijmans Vastgoed. She says: “At Heijmans we always look at an area before we develop real estate. What is the identity, what standards and values are there? How do we ensure that we improve the quality of life through the living environment?” And a healthy environment is not just the living environment. Sustainability also plays a role, as does a social network. But also the road from home to the supermarket, to school, or where someone walks his dog. Hopmans: “We have to make sure that people feel safe and seen. And that is what we want to measure and know. Through SPRING’s research we can find out whether it makes sense, what we are doing, and how we can do it even better.”
Shaping the future together
Heijmans is part of the development plan National Plan Rotterdam South. Marjan Hopmans says: “We also run into things when developing new buildings in Rotterdam South. For example: how do we ensure that old and new residents get along with each other?” The questions that residents have in a neighbourhood are very important to include in plans, she says. You need to know what problems there are, but also where the potential lies. You cannot build a future if you do not first understand the history.
Hopmans experienced first-hand that the museum and swimming pool built by Heijmans in Rotterdam South are already having a positive effect. “We went and talked to the residents ourselves. A high school student said to me about the swimming pool and the museum: ‘Nobody ever looked at us before, but now we seem to matter again!’ So together with the knowledge institutes, we can shape the future of this neighbourhood, and also make it genuinely nicer and healthier.”
You can't build a future if you don't first understand the history of a place
This project gives an impression of the public-private partnerships that will be developed for Resilient Delta. Currently this project and the consortium is still under construction. Activities have yet to start. Interested in joining the consortium? Please reach out to the business developers of Resilient Delta.
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