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What the Dutch have to say about health and healthy living : Background study to the 2010 Dutch Public Health Status and Forecasts Report

Nederlanders aan het woord over gezondheid en gezond leven : Achtergrondrapport bij de Volksgezondheid Toekomst Verkenning 2010. Van gezond naar beter

Synopsis

This study describes how the Dutch view various aspects of health and living healthily. It is a qualitative study based on discussions in 12 focus groups. Data were collected in the second half of 2008. The results provide an interesting supplement to the quantitative information on public health provided in the Dutch Public Health Status and Forecasts Report. The lay perspective of health as a concept revolves around two aspects: participation (being able to do what one would like to do) and the sensation of health (e.g. having sufficient energy and feeling 'in tune' with oneself). These two aspects are often in 'the back of people's minds' when they work on improving their health; there is the desire to recharge one's 'battery' and obtain the energy needed to cope with the challenges of daily living. Having sufficient energy coupled with the sensation of being healthy allows even individuals with a disease to consider themselves to be in good health. Intuition and 'feelings' play a large part in the lay person's thinking about health. One often hears individuals say that they listen to their bodies and follow their feelings when it comes to health matters. Information on health can be confusing, with reports from epidemiological studies sometimes contradicting each other. Consequently, the recipients of this information may feel that they 'can't see the forest for the trees' and often resort to their own home-grown strategy for living a healthy life. Being confronted with oneself is the most important reason for embarking on behavioural changes towards a healthier lifestyle. This confrontation can come in many different guises: a mirror, holiday snaps, a set of scales, a health report from a doctor, to name only a few. Public health measures and campaigns are also discussed in this study. Critical voices see government measures as a slippery slope towards the curtailing of individual freedom of choice.
 

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