Fortunately, children in the Netherlands grow up in a reasonably healthy way. Yet there are still some aspects that could be improved. For example, there is more obesity among young people today than at any time in the past, there are more behavioural problems, and parents are increasingly uncertain about the best way to raise a child. Symone Detmar, programme manager Youth, feels that “Prevention has much to offer. Over time, it is particularly rewarding, and we are cooperating with various partners in this area.”
The first 1,000 days
A child’s first 1,000 days – from preconception to the age of two – are crucial to its development. Health problems in later life can be traced back to developments in the womb. So it is vital to consciously adopt healthy behaviour during pregnancy. Together with various partners, TNO has developed a new model to guide groups of pregnant women and young parents (CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting). These groups involve a lot of interaction, and women are encouraged to weigh up the various healthy choices. This can, for instance, cause them to stop smoking sooner. But prevention can start even earlier – we also focus on women who are trying to become pregnant. Furthermore, we are conducting research into effective links throughout the entire chain involved in providing care for children and in the well-being of present or future parents. This extends from the period before pregnancy to maternity care and still further, to Youth Health Care.
Healthcare to young people
We develop, evaluate and improve methods that contribute to an environment in which young people can grow up and be educated healthily, safely and with good life chances. TNO works closely with the Youth Health Care services. For instance, we offer a two-year training course for young doctors to become youth health care physicians. We also develop guidelines for well-baby clinics, to ensure that the best knowledge actually finds its way into everyday practice. We encourage young people to practice good oral care. One of the innovations we are working on is customised care. Here, data that is already available is used to identify infants who are brought to well-baby clinics more often, as well as those who are seen less frequently.
Many children do not eat enough fruit and vegetables, even though these foods are vital for healthy development. A healthy diet can prevent obesity, for example. We have developed expertise in how to bring about behavioural changes in parents and children. It’s not enough just to shower people with information, our studies focus on individual subjects and the factors that motivate them. We employ that same expertise to make children and young people more socially resilient.
TNO partners professionals and policymakers in the area of youth care. We provide validated expertise in response to questions from individuals and organisations working in everyday practice. In this context, we have a range of disciplines at our disposal, from doctors and educators, to health advocates and statisticians. Symone Detmar emphasises that “It is extremely important to invest in children, after all they are the future of our society.”
Would you like to know more about our activities regarding young people or perhaps cooperate with us? Read the details below or get in touch with us.