Healthy Start: Increasing opportunities for young people

Nieuws - 19 november 2021

The best start for new generations, that is the mission of the new ‘Healthy Start’ initiative. This collaboration between science and practice is all about increasing opportunities for young people from -1 to 21, regardless of background and starting position. Healthy Start is a unique collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), Erasmus MC, and TU Delft with partners from the field and the Rotterdam region as a living lab. In this joint approach with medical, technical and social scientists, social partners and the young people themselves, innovative solutions and measures are being worked on that have a direct impact on the child, the city and society. Healthy Start originated from the convergence collaboration between Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus MC and TU Delft. The festive start took place on 9 November, with an inspiring meeting between science and practice in the spirit of the initiative.

Inspiration from young scientists

During the conference on 9 November, many young scientists presented inspiring ideas on how to give the new generation of Rotterdammers the best start. Initiator Eveline Crone (EUR): “The basis of Healthy Start is that scientists work together with children and youth workers and young people themselves. The best ideas often come from the young researchers, who have hands-on experience. Ideas such as a Golden Hub where current projects come together, a dedicated team that actively bridges the gap between science and practice and a prize for young people who come up with a new idea (citizen science) will therefore be worked out together in the near future. It must become a real Healthy Start movement”

There was also enthusiasm from the directors of the scientific institutions involved: “Healthy Start does exactly what convergence is intended for: putting the best scientists to work with the major societal challenges of our time. Creating as many equal opportunities as possible for children and young people is one of these issues.” according to EUR Executive Board Prof. Ed Brinksma. He and rector/chairman of TU Delft, Prof. Tim van der Hagen, received the detailed Healthy Start proposal during the conference.

The conference in a nutshell
Prof. dr. Loes Keijsers (EUR) talked about her research focused on parenting and growing up in 2021. She addressed the question of why it is difficult to design preventive parenting programs. Many research methods pay too little attention to the individual. As a result, having a positive effect only on a limited group. “So-called Experience Sampling Methods are helpful here, such as the ‘Grow-it App’, which contributes to reducing depressive feelings in young people. Help and cooperation with TU Delft is crucial in this regard,” Keijsers says.

Prof. dr. Maaike Kleinsmann (TU Delft) spoke about the STAMINA project, a project that seeks a solution for overprotective parents of children with a congenital heart defect. This was the reason for her to participate in Healthy Start. She works on ‘a wicked problem’ through collaboration with researchers from different disciplines, companies and families. “By always grabbing and pulling a thread, we can solve the problem in phases,” says Kleinsmann.

Prof. dr. Eric Steegers (Erasmus MC) talked about the importance of preconception health for expectant parents. To ensure that every Rotterdammer has a good start in the first 1,000 days of his/her life, he has started a collaboration with the municipality that eventually led to the national program ‘Kansrijke Start’. Steegers: “Our research showed that the risk of a premature birth or low birth weight was greater in deprived neighborhoods than in other neighbourhoods. That’s not as it should be. We saw that it was of great importance to connect the medical and social domains. When you see something like that as a researcher, you have to be activist and create a sense of urgency in politics.”

Ernest van der Kwast, writer and ‘Rotterdamse Douwer’ contributed with a story from practice and made the link with the important initiatives of the municipality of Rotterdam for a better future for young people. Van der Kwast was linked to Abdi through the Rotterdamse Douwers foundation. This foundation was established five years ago and links Rotterdammers to young people who are struggling with major problems, such as debts or addictions.

Healthy Start and the Convergence
Healthy Start is an initiative of Prof. Dr. Eveline Crone (EUR), Prof. Dr. Vincent Jaddoe (Erasmus MC) and Prof. Dr. Maaike Kleinsmann (TUD) and is part of the Convergence of EUR, Erasmus MC and TU Delft. In the Convergence, TU Delft, Erasmus MC and EUR join forces and look beyond the boundaries of institutions and disciplines to arrive at new perspectives and solutions for the urgent and complex social issues of our time.

Maaike Kleinsmann