Social domain

How do we achieve a strong, healthy and inclusive society in which everybody can participate? And how do we ensure that everybody who needs it, receives support in good time? ZonMw provides knowledge, tools and tips from research for policymakers, trainers and professionals from the field to strengthen the social domain.

The Dutch social domain is the field that implements the Youth Act, Participation Act, Social Support Act and, in part, the Public Health Act. In this field, municipalities and civil society organisations work together on health, well-being and safety to facilitate the broad approach to health and support, and to enable citizens to fully participate in society.

Knowledge for the social domain

ZonMw uses knowledge to realise a good health for everybody. Also for the people for whom that is not self-evident, such as people with a learning disability or physical disability, dementia, chronic illness or mental health issues. However, we are interested in reducing socioeconomic health inequalities too, and we do that by funding research that provides new insights in the area of work, income and health. This is because poor health is not just the outcome of unhealthy behaviour, but especially of complex inequalities in society.

A lot of knowledge is needed to ensure a strong, healthy and inclusive society in which everybody can participate. ZonMw identifies which knowledge is needed for the social domain and provides funding to researchers to develop this knowledge and/or to ensure that existing knowledge is used as well as to effect an improved integral collaboration and a stronger knowledge infrastructure. Professionals from the field and policymakers benefit from this: they can provide a better range of care and support through collaboration, knowledge exchange and by utilising new knowledge. Here you can read more about ZonMw as a connecting force behind innovation, our core activities and our most important contractors.

The movement from care towards health

The movement from care towards health has been initiated to keep healthcare affordable and accessible in the future. This involves paying greater attention to prevention and improving the collaboration between healthcare and the social domain. This lies at the heart of two important Dutch agreements: the Integraal Zorgakkoord [Integral Care Agreement] and the Gezond en Actief Leven Akkoord  [Healthy and Active Life Agreement]. By focusing more on prevention, the strengthening of livelihood security and smarter ways to collaborate, unnecessary care can be prevented and we will be able to make the transition towards appropriate care. The social domain plays a very important role in this regard. Even where health problems do exist, a medical answer is not always the (only) desirable answer.

Strengthening the social base and neighbourhood infrastructure

Appropriate care focuses on the quality of life and functioning of people. That goes beyond just fulfilling a need for care. The strengthening of the social basis contributes to a person's health as well. This mainly concerns preventing and solving problems, such as housing needs, debts and loneliness but also purpose in life and palliative care. This requires a good collaboration between care providers, municipalities, youth professionals, schools and other public or civil society organisations.

Health and prevention

The place where you live influences your health. Municipalities can use different approaches to create a healthy neighbourhood and healthy living environment. They can, for instance, actively tackle the use and implementation of recognised lifestyle interventions or provide a neighbourhood-specific approach for a living environment that challenges people to exercise. But it also includes the use of integral approaches to reduce health inequalities. Researchers make an important contribution to the healthy living environment by developing knowledge that municipalities can use in practice.

If somebody visits their GP with a care need, there are often other issues at play in the area of lifestyle or social and societal contexts. Therefore, the social domain, primary care and public healthcare need to be better aligned with each other. Researchers develop knowledge that contributes to a successful, coherent and accessible provision of prevention in the neighbourhood.

Education plays an important role in this alignment too. Researchers provide innovation and collaboration in initial and post-initial education. In this way, healthcare professionals already learn to collaborate with other disciplines, such as those in the social domain, during their training.

Researchers contribute to developing and implementing various lifestyle interventions in the area of obesity, smoking and alcohol.

Within Kansrijke Start [Promising Start], various parties work together to give more children a good start in life. Because the health of a child before, during and after birth has proven to be an important predictor of physical and/or mental problems at a later age.

Sport and exercise

We aim to make the Netherlands a country where sport and exercise are always possible and accessible for everybody regardless of where they live. Participating in sport as an athlete, volunteer or fan greatly benefits individuals and society. The provision of sport and exercise must therefore be fun, safe and inclusive. ZonMw contributes to this by developing knowledge and by boosting innovation together with Sportinnovator.

We do that with the following 3 programmes:

  • MOOI in Beweging [Exercise well] and specifically the wicked problem 'residents in problem neighbourhoods exercise less'
  • Living labs Sport and Exercise and low socioeconomic status(SES)
  • Sportinnovator
  • Programme 'Innovations to encourage people with a low SES to participate in sport and exercise'

The programmes are closely aligned with the relevant policy frameworks such as the Nationaal Sportakkoord [National Sport Agreement] (in Dutch) and the realisation of the local sport agreements and the use of neighbourhood sport coaches (linked to the Brede Regeling Combinatiefuncties/SPUK [Broad Scheme Combined Positions/SPUK]) (in Dutch).

Overarching support

Municipal health services will profile themselves more strongly as regional collaborative partners for municipalities and as the regional link in the knowledge infrastructure for the promotion of health and prevention. They will help municipalities with implementing recognised prevention interventions in the local or regional context. In addition, an overarching network of national knowledge parties will be set up to exchange knowledge with each other as well as municipal health services. This concerns scientific knowledge, hands-on experience and experiential knowledge.