Healthy and vital people in Twente

If it is up to Karlijn Tijhuis, all people in Twente become healthy and vital! Karlijn is a health promotion consultant at GGD Twente and started Twente Gezond in 2014 with various partners. This initiative brings together public and private parties to collaborate on Positive Health in Twente. She explains the process enthusiastically, but with a critical note.

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A bird view on health

“To start a movement, we must first get rid of the traditional definition of ‘health’ by the World Health Organisation. They only say someone is only healthy when being in a state of physical, mental ánd social well-being. However, let’s think about it, who is truly in such a state? Positive health is about how to deal with things that happen in life, such as illness, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Being healthy must be seen as more than ‘not being ill’, as it’s also about feeling mentally well, experiencing meaning in life and participating in society. It’s a bird view on people in context. Twente Gezond is a growing network of partners from Twente that collaborate from this shared belief.”

Trust own strength

“Employers want to avoid employees being unable to work as they are hard to replace. The problem is that attention is mainly focused on treatment instead of prevention. There is so much to gain. How can we prevent people from ever needing treatment? Sure, the responsibility for your health lies primarily with you, but the environment in which you live, work, study and recreate has a considerable impact. There are opportunities for all the hours we spend at work. Our environment must be designed in a way that stimulates healthy behaviour, making it default behaviour. Just ask how you can support the other in his/her responsibility to be healthy as an employer, manager or coach.”

Twente Gezond

“The partners in Twente Gezond organise a network-meeting four times per year. Surprising encounters take place at such meetings. Partners discover each other based on shared experiences, challenges and wishes concerning Positive Health. Together we developed an action plan, our so-called roadmap. It starts with sharing knowledge, issues and inspiring examples. Second is carrying out specific activities together. Finally, we critically review laws and regulations, showing that focusing on prevention and health promotion pays off. ROC van Twente and the University of Twente joined to represent education and research, regularly asking partners to think along with their issues. Twente Gezond combines theory, practice and government.”

Better market the message

Partners of Twente Gezond often wonder what other innovative entrepreneurs are doing that they have not yet considered. Non-profits often have lots of knowledge and ideas but are usually not proactive. For-profits excel at marketing a product, service or message, using their perfectly developed communication strategies. Non-profits can learn a lot from the for-profits to seduce people to develop healthy behaviour. They can also learn a lot from young graduates who often not only look at salary anymore. Secondary employment conditions, space to relax at work, flexible hours and teambuilding are becoming increasingly important. If an organisation focusses on those conditions, you are distinctive, thus attracting talent.”

Work as medicine

“Work is like a medicine. It provides purpose, rhythm, status and income. Inclusive employment gains traction: entrepreneurs offering opportunities to people with a distance to the labour market. Baanbrekend Landschap is a great initiative from AOC OostLandschap Overijssel and the fourteen municipalities in Twente. People work four days per week in the landscape of Twente, guided by a foreman and a coach. The coaching is fully based on our shared vision on health, as it is not just about what employees are can do, but about all elements of someone’s life and health. What is that person’s passion and what goals does he/she want to achieve? At Baanbrekend Landschap matching is provided with suitable employers. In contrast to many other reintegration companies, the dropout rate is low as the intention is to have participants work in the long term. All participants mentioned that they feel better and enjoy life more. That’s what health is all about. As an employer just ask what makes your employees happy to come to work. Make them ambassadors of positive health in your company, an inspiration to other employees, and support them in being and doing so.”

Health diploma

“We need to stimulate people in all environments. If someone is healthy at work but eats a microwave meal at home, we’re obviously not doing well. Only by stimulating in all environments, and by giving this process a lot of time, we can seduce people to change their behaviour. Ask employees what works for them. This often leads to surprising insights. Maybe being able to work more flexible hours or changing some of the assigned tasks is much more important than offering fruit at work. Of course, employers may fear that this will cost a lot of money, but still, talk the talk. Everyone takes an interest in healthy employees, and besides, you know the costs of employees that drop out. Even though it’s hard to predict what prevention measures will cost, I can guarantee that it is less than dropping out employees. At school, we get all sorts of diplomas, for traffic, counting and more. However, we do not get one for being healthy and vital. The underlying skills are those that are relevant throughout your life, and we should start teaching this in primary school. I’m glad that the Positive Health Institute (Instituut voor Positieve Gezondheid) starts this movement, but honestly, I cannot wait to move forward faster!”

Date: 10 October 2018
Source of tekst: INN'twente
Author: Yike
Audio / video: Eric Brinkhorst

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