With 570.000 insured citizens, the fifth largest health insurer in the Netherlands presents itself. Meet The Friesland Zorgverzekeraar, frontrunner in reforming the health sector. Through multiple initiatives, engagement of its insured citizens with nature is encouraged. This solution is part of a larger series that were published in 2016.
The Friesland is a frontrunner in reforming the health sector. Former Minister of Health Edith Schippers gave the organization an experimental status to create innovation and change towards a sustainable future in health care. It is expected that, with current policies, forty percent of our income will be spend on health care in 2040. This needs to be changed. Costs rise as a result of an aging population and more and more people having chronic diseases. Change is needed, by bringing care closer to people, rearranging the (financial) structure and by investing in prevention. The Friesland has an innovation fund, which supports innovative projects that contribute to structural improvements of quality and efficiency of care.
Nature and health are inextricably connected
“As the competition increased in health insurance, we started thinking profoundly about our added value for our clients”, explains Tjisse Brookman, Manager Relationships within The Friesland. “We naturally came to the relationship between nature and health, as the two are inextricably interconnected. Exercising or unwinding in nature have preventive and healing impact. For example, research has shown that people recover significantly more quickly, when overlooking green surroundings.”
At its core it’s about awareness: awareness about the influence people personally have on their living and working environments and their health. Our ambition is to create awareness both publicly and among health providers. “Sometimes it’s as if people are completely different during weekdays, compared to their spare time. In weekends we walk on the beach, go biking and realize that nature has positive effects. However, in our daily professional life we often do not take that in consideration. Because of my participation in the Community of Practice I realize that this process may even be more obstinate than we thought. Why is it so difficult to create a true movement on these matters?”
What is the change we’re discussing?
“We need to start thinking differently about our business models: from ‘wat does it cost’ to ‘what does it bring?’ and from ‘sickness & health care’ to ‘health & behaviour’. I notice that the ‘white world’ (care providers) asks for a scientific substantiation of the assumption that nature contributes to our wellbeing. For that reason, I work with Agnes van den Berg (University of Groningen), who researches the influence of a green environment on the health and wellbeing of the Dutch. By demonstrating the mechanisms beneath this relationship, we continue our work. I hope that awareness leads to healthy behaviour, but I do notice that the financial interest often prevails for our clients. Does this mean that we should give compensations for preventive measures? I don't know, it truly is a quest to discover our role and responsibility.”
The Friesland has started multiple initiatives in which the relationship between nature and health is key. This is being done with several partners. For example, mindfulness training within companies or coaching sessions through walking. Another initiative is beterinhetgroen.nl, that is supported by The Friesland. This widget helps citizens, schools, doctors and other health professionals to easily find healthy offers in green surroundings. This also applies for ‘Healthy Walks in Nature’: a broad range of organisations (form wellness, health, sports and nature conservation) organizes walks in nature every week. These walks are guided by volunteers and are primarily intended for people wishing to exercise more, but the social aspect is equally important (in the UK more than 70.000 people participate in these walks).
“In addition, we invest in specific activities to get health care to a higher level and we are conducting research into behavioural aspects. This causes a dilemma: we do need money to invest and increasing the insurance contributions will possibly lead to leaving customers. It’s a continuous dilemma of short term investments versus long term returns, both for our clients and for us.”
Community of Practice
“Because of my participation in the Community of Practice I realized I’m not alone in this quest. We are cooperating more and more to discover how to create change. In my opinion, an integral approach, creating consistency and synergy among us, can help us find the solutions for current issues.”
The Friesland Verzekeraar was one of the frontrunners that formed part of a Community of Practice of Financial Institutions and Natural Capital (CoP FINC), which aimed to accelerate the transition to sustainable finance. This solution is part of a larger series of best practices that resulted from this CoP.