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Health promotion in the Netherlands

National and local government

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport bears overall responsibility for public health in the Netherlands at a national level. It formulates policy objectives relating to prevention and health promotion and oversees the effective implementation of measures. Under the Public Health Act, responsibility for public health, prevention and health promotion at a local level lies with the local authorities (municipalities, in Dutch: 'gemeenten'). Every four years municipalities have to formulate a public health strategy for their area.

Municipal public health services

The responsibilities of local authorities regarding public health, prevention and health promotion are primarily carried out by their respective municipal public health services (usually known by the abbreviation 'GGD' i.e. Gemeentelijke/Gewestelijke Gezondheidsdienst in Dutch). There are around 30 of these in the Netherlands, each serving a particular region – and thus more than one local authority – or city. Municipal public health services carry out a wide range of public health related activities. They can, for instance, develop and implement health promotion programmes that are tailored to the needs of local communities. Municipal public health services have developed their own local interventions around themes such as child obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and diabetes. They may also opt to implement interventions that are developed by others, for example by national health promotion institutes.

Health promotion institutes

There are several health promotion institutes in the Netherlands that focus on a specific theme and operate nationally. They derive part of their income from government funding and specialise in research, consultancy and the development of educational materials, health promotion programmes and campaigns. The 7 major health promotion institutes that work in partnership with the Centre for Healthy Living are: 

RIVM: National Institute for Public Health and the Environment

The Centre for Healthy Living is part of RIVM, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. RIVM is a leading centre of expertise in the fields of health, nutrition and environmental protection.

RIVM is an agency of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. RIVM also works for other ministries such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. In addition, RIVM works for the European Union and the United Nations. The results of its research, monitoring, modelling and risk assessment are used to underpin policy on public health, food, safety and the environment.

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