With the introduction of the Environment Act, municipalities will become increasingly responsible for implementing preventive and integrated policy, including health policy. Much attention is paid to the situation in large cities, but this process also takes place in the small rural centers. In addition, other health issues often play a role in these villages, such as population decline, selective migration and closing of local facilities. Sufficient knowledge to strengthen a healthy living environment in these small centers is hardly available and many municipalities have insufficient capacity to develop this. The GO! Method is a way to compile integral perspectives to improve the healthy living environment in co-creation with residents. In this project, the GO! Method will be further developed for the specific context of small rural centres, through pilots in approximately 10 villages in the provinces of Groningen, Fryslân and Drenthe.
The GO! Method for improving the healthy living environment consists of six steps. The first step is to prepare a regional knowledge agenda with the most important structural themes in the healthy living environment that play a regional role (1). With the help of this knowledge agenda, specific village profiles are drawn up with qualitative and quantitative data at village level (2). Local stakeholders then draw up an overview of opportunities and threats in their village with regard to the healthy living environment; mainly by mirroring their own perspectives with the available village profiles (3). The combined input from the profile and local villagers is put forward to consortium experts in order to make an overview of evidence based integrated combinations of measures to improve the healthy living environment in the village (4). The relevant sectors of the municipality that are involved (from spatial planning to social domain) then select and implement the most suitable integrated measures in consultation with the residents (5). The health effects of these integrated measures are monitored and evaluated during and after the implementation phase (6), to serve as input for a next cycle to improve the healthy living environment of the village. Throughout this process, co-creation, scientifically based and societal relevance form the basic combination.
A consortium consisting of the regional Public Health Services (GGD), the Groningen Safety Region, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Windesheim University of Applied Sciences and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment are carrying out this pilot in cooperation with four Northern Netherlands municipalyties. In phase I, the regional knowledge agenda was drawn up, pilot villages were selected and a start was made on drawing up the village profiles and preparing stakeholder interviews. Depending on the local context and dynamics, the various pilot villages are in different steps of the GO! Method. In phase II, all villages will go through the full cycle of the GO! Method.
Based on the acquired knowledge, the GO! Method will be developed further for the rural context and made available for use in other municipalities in the form of a toolkit. This toolkit will consist of tools for:
• building regional networks of policy, practice and research on the theme of a healthy living environment,
• building the datasets for drawing up village profiles,
• compiling integrated sets of evidence based measures to improve the healthy living environment in rural municipalities in the context of the requirements of the coming environmental act,
• Cyclical implementation and evaluation of integrated measures on the healthy living environment.