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Newborn baby in an MRI scan at UMC Utrecht. (Marcel van den Bergh / ANP)
The healthcare sector faces major challenges in the coming years. The ageing population means a growing proportion of people need care, whereas job vacancies in the healthcare sector remain unfilled. Healthcare costs continue to rise due to population ageing and expensive personalised medicine, such as gene therapy and other forms of biotechnology. Action to safeguard public health also increasingly needs to consider the impact of digitalisation, which can affect health in all kinds of domains, from education to work, and both positively and negatively. It is important to give a voice to citizens and stakeholders as regards the use of both biotechnology and digitalisation for health and healthcare purposes.

Through research and dialogue, the Rathenau Instituut aims to contribute to timely democratic decision- and policy-making regarding the deployment of science, technology, and innovation in healthcare.


Focus areas

System transition in healthcare
Together with citizens and stakeholders from science, business and medicine, we will explore what innovation, knowledge, and collaborations are needed to cope with population ageing and with the labour shortages and high costs in the healthcare sector. Options for action will thus emerge for organising social and technological innovation in healthcare, while being mindful of differences. We will take account, for example, of gender, socio-economic conditions, and social inequality; in other words, we will adopt an intersectional perspective.

Health in the digital society
In conjunction with the theme of Digitalisation, we will examine the impact that digitalisation has on health and well-being in such domains as work, education, mobility, and leisure. This will include addiction to gaming, for example, but also the stress and loss of attention that may be associated with living in the digital society. In addition, we will carry out scenario studies to explore the form and direction in which this broad digitalisation of our lives might develop, and what its integral impact on the health and well-being of the Dutch population will be.

Public engagement and biotechnology
We will organise public dialogues on the development of biotechnology so as to give citizens and patients a voice, for example regarding technologies such as artificial gametes (“sex cells”) and DNA modification. We will also ensure that the insights emerging from these dialogues find their way into political decision- and policy-making, and into the governance of this technology in actual practice. Additionally, we will equip researchers, technology developers, businesses, and government with tools for incorporating important values such as safety, justice, and autonomy into their research and policies. Finally, we intend exploring – together with citizens and other stakeholders – how biotech innovations reinforce climate-related policies, or, on the contrary, place them under strain (theme 2).