Building the Future of Health

Why this conference?

Building the Future of Health is a large international conference that will take place in June 2016 in Groningen, the Netherlands. It marks a fundamental change in how we think about our built environment, public health and our healthcare system.

Can the built environment help us stay healthy for longer? Can it inspire us to exercise more? How can we provide for clean water and air? What will our future hospitals look like? Does linking healthy lifestyle and good nutrition to well-designed cities offer a possible cure for Western diseases like obesity and diabetes? And moreover: how can architects and urban planners play a vital role in solving these issues? These questions – and many more – will take centre stage at the international conference Building the Future of Health.

Building the Future of Health revitalizes the once fertile coalition between urban planning, architecture and public health. In doing so, it underlines the great importance of healthy, well-designed cities in an ageing world. The conference distinguishes three tracks in which various relevant aspects are up for discussion: Healthy Cities and the Built Environment, Ageing in Place and The Architecture of Hospitals. In addition, a fourth track is presented in which the wider context of Healthy Ageing is explored.

Due to the conviction that the best solutions come about by exchanging knowledge and skills, the conference is of a highly interdisciplinary nature. For four days, it offers an inspiring environment in which architects, urban planners, landscape architects, medical researchers, environmental planners, policymakers, administrators, doctors, sociologists, (local) politicians and authorities, demographers and representatives from various other disciplines in the field of public health can meet.

The initiative for this conference was taken by the Healthy Ageing Network Northern Netherlands (HANNN), the Thomassen à Thuessink Foundation | UMCG, TNO and the Thomassen à Theussink chair of Architecture, Urbanism and Health at the University of Groningen.


Outline Building the Future of Health


Building the Future of Health is divided into four parallel tracks that represent the various themes and levels up for discussion. 

1: Healthy Cities and the Built Environment focuses on the everyday living and working conditions of our cities, neighbourhoods, villages and our landscape. It considers the way in which (the quality and design of) our surroundings can contribute to our health. How do we make our cities and villages healthy? And what role do nature and landscape play? In Track 1, various sub-themes come up for discussion, including air quality and urban climate, the way in which urban architectural design can promote (or obstruct) healthy lifestyles, the (industrial) production of food, the development of monocultures, the consequences of using fossil fuels, etc. In addition, Track 1 considers historic and current examples of Healthy Cities, sheds light on the medical roots of urban development and shows spatial experiments and design studies for cities, neighbourhoods, villages and countryside as they are conceived of in the EU, for instance. 

2: Ageing in Place redefines the relationship between housing and healthcare. This has partially been prompted by social developments where a new generation of older people is no longer interested in traditional housing for the elderly. They prefer to put off ageing for as long as possible, and when healthcare does become necessary, they wish to seek this – if not by taking care of it themselves – in a different way. On the other hand, a change in outlook has taken place. Those in need of care – young and old – living in an institution are now seen as full members of society. Does the new relationship between housing and healthcare create new design concepts: from multi-generational homes to so-called ‘lifeproof’ housing? And how do we deal with all that outdated healthcare real estate in the meantime: nursing homes, (old) institutions for mental healthcare and former locations for specialized care? What role do public housing associations and private investors play?

3: The Architecture of Hospitals presents the latest developments in various hospital departments (operating room, radiology), the development of new specialized typologies and the possibilities offered by the digitalization of healthcare for the creation of the network hospital. In addition it considers themes such as decentralization and flexibility. What about the integration of hospitals with the surrounding (urban) landscape? What do hospitals look like that operate much more from a patient’s perspective, and where prevention is starting to play a more and more important role? And can the hospital itself become more healthy, and challenge patients to engage in healthy behaviour through clever interior design and a different organization of healthcare?

4: Healthy Ageing: A Users Guide proves that Healthy Ageing amounts to much more than a simple equation of spatial themes. In Track 4, we consider all those other essential aspects of a healthy life and of growing older healthily. This means attention for the wider perspective and related developments and fields of study: from ageing populations/demography, socio-economic aspects and the perception of health, to good nutrition and exercise. In addition, Track 4 considers technological developments: from health apps to digital personal trainers. Further, we take a good look at the diseases and conditions threatening us today. Who is affected? What are the risks involved? And what role does the environment play? This creates an extensive picture of Healthy Ageing: a list of ingredients that does not claim to be comprehensive, but is inspiring and stimulating and challenges congress guests to look (far) beyond their own disciplines.

Read the entire outline and objectives of Building the Future of Health here.

Practical info

Here you can find information on (public) transport. To make your stay in Groningen as pleasant as possible, we have also added a small list of recommendations for restaurants and hotels.

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Building the Future of Health is een initiatief van: