RIVM is responsible for several national programmes which promote public health. These programmes are designed to prevent people from developing certain diseases, or to ensure that diseases and disorders can be diagnosed at an early stage whereupon prompt treatment can be offered.
Prevention programmes target various groups within the Dutch population. For example, newborn babies are given the Guthrie Test (‘heel prick’) which can identify certain disorders, while older children form the target group for the National Vaccination Programme. The national screening programmes for breast cancer and cervical cancer are available to all women over the age of fifty or in high-risk groups.
The Dutch government also supports many ‘lifestyle interventions’ designed to improve public health, such as smoking cessation activities and campaigns to highlight the importance of a healthy diet and adequate exercise. RIVM has been given the task of monitoring these interventions, assessing their effectiveness, and ensuring their wider implementation as part of a cohesive programme and policy. This task is performed by the Centre for Healthy Living, in association with numerous specialist partner organizations.