The goal of the Healthy Living Environment programme (Programma Gezonde Leefomgeving, PGLO) is a healthy living environment for all. A healthy living environment is one that is clean and safe, protects against health risks and encourages exercise and socialising. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has commissioned RIVM and ZonMw, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, to design the PGLO together.
Healthy living environment: both physical and social
To ensure a broad approach to a healthy living environment, cooperation is vital – between neighbourhood wardens and environmental services, between Municipal Public Health Services and urban designers, etc. It is therefore important that these parties have the knowledge, tools and skills they need to give health its proper place in the spatial planning process.
Complex processes, but also new opportunities
The spatial planning process is a complex one. Climate change, the energy transition and the need for housing are all jostling for position at the local level. New legislation, like the Environment and Planning Act, requires a new way of working. This presents a great opportunity for health to be given proper consideration in policy decision-making, particularly in areas where the greatest health benefits can be achieved – such as in vulnerable neighbourhoods.
What the PGLO offers: knowledge and grant schemes
The PGLO gathers knowledge about a healthy living environment together in one place and makes it accessible. This knowledge – substantive as well as process-related – is then expanded and shared. Among other things, it consists of tools, design principles, measures and rules of thumb. Visit https://www.rivm.nl/gezondeleefomgeving for examples.
The ZonMw grant scheme ‘Integrative approach to a healthy living environment’ targets the further development of practical knowledge, an integrative approach and joint learning. It makes it possible for municipal authorities and Municipal Public Health Services to take health into account when it comes to designing and managing the physical environment. The first grant round had a focus on knowledge development about health in vulnerable neighbourhoods. The second grant round will focus on applying this knowledge in practice. Municipal authorities, Municipal Public Health Services and provincial authorities can all apply for grants.
First steps already taken: exploratory study
RIVM has investigated the benefits to society of a healthy and green living environment. This analysis has shown that making the living environment greener, restricting car access and promoting exercise – in the broadest sense – has many benefits for health, the economy, ecology and the social domain. The conclusion is warranted that investing in a healthy and green living environment pays off. At the moment, information about this is scattered among many parties, meaning that integrative insights are lacking. The result is that a broad approach to a healthy living environment is currently only possible to a limited extent. The Healthy Living Environment programme is taking steps to make this possible in the future.
The fact sheet ‘Relationship between a healthy living environment and cancer, overweight and dementia’ (in Dutch) illustrates the relationship between the quality of the living environment and these common diseases and shows how a healthy living environment reduces the risks of cancer, dementia and overweight.
In 2023, the ZonMw grants enabled the foundation of three ‘living labs’. They support municipal authorities with measures and tools to promote a healthy living environment. The labs unite people from the spatial, social and health domains. The outcomes of these ‘living labs’ can be applied in practice straight away. ZonMw will incorporate these outcomes in the ‘Integrative approach to a healthy living environment’ grant scheme'.
Mission and cooperation
The Healthy Living Environment programme runs until the end of 2025. It is an initiative of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, in coordination with the Ministries of Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality, the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and Infrastructure and Water Management. RIVM and ZonMw implement the programme with and on behalf of the people, organisations and authorities in the health, social and spatial-physical domains.
For more information about the Healthy Living Environment programme, please contact the programme manager, Vera Dalm, on 06 311 44 311 or at email@example.com.