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First Vitality and Ageing master thesis published as scientific article

Master Vitality and Ageing’s (V&A) alumnus Willeke Ravensbergen conducted for her master’s thesis research on the impact of combinations of future trends on healthcare utilisation of older people in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu, RIVM). This is the first V&A master’s thesis which is published as a scientific article.

Collaboration with the RIVM

Every four years the RIVM publishes a report on (health) trends in the population and their expected effect on healthcare use (i.e. the Public Health Foresight Study). Ravensbergen explored at the RIVM the combined effect of trends in older people on their future healthcare utilisation. 

Till now foresight studies described the effect of single trends on healthcare utilisation. However, in real life the use of healthcare is the result of various heterogeneous trends in a population. Interaction between these trends might have a significant impact on healthcare utilisation. Ravensbergen: “We wanted to explore whether interaction between trends might have an effect on healthcare utilisation and should therefore be included in foresight studies.”

The first V&A master’s thesis which is published as a scientific article.

Highlights and Results

The effect of interaction between trends on healthcare utilisation was explored using the Delphi method. This method uses an expert consensus procedure to identify main effects and needs for further research. It is used when evidence on a topic is limited and complex interdependencies play a role.

The experts in this study expected an extra increase of healthcare use by older people because of interaction between trends. This increase was mainly expected for general practitioner, home, and informal care. In contrast, no influence of interaction on specialist and acute care was expected. Not all combinations of trends were expected to have an effect on healthcare utilisation. The main drivers for an expected increase of healthcare utislisation were found in combinations of trends that concerned less support for older persons (i.e. decrease number of informal caregivers).


This study points out the relevance of interaction between numerous, heterogeneous trends for healthcare utilisation. It shows the need to take interaction into account not only in research on future healthcare utilisation but also when designing new health policy.

Master Vitality and Ageing

The growing ageing population calls for new experts. The master Vitality and Ageing prepares young professionals for the healthcare challenges from  biological, individual and public health perspectives of ageing. 

In the course Science and Career, students perform scientific research at a relevant organisation on a vitality and ageing related topic. The motivation of Ravensbergen to choose the RIVM as the organisation to perform her master thesis research was clear: “I have a background in medicine and I wanted to use my interests in population health for my master’s thesis. I find it important to develop health policies that match the societal changes of the ageing population. Research is an important first step. It was a great way to finish my master’s in Vitality and Ageing.” 

You can find the article here.

For more information and questions about this research contact Willeke Ravensbergen.

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