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Research domain: (Global) Health & Well-being

Human health is the extent of an individual’s continuing physical, emotional, mental and social ability to cope with the environment. Athena's research in this field focusses on describing, understanding, transforming and evaluating responsibilities, strategies, actions and networks together with relevant groups of stakeholders – patients, health workers, societal organisations, industry and policy makers - to increase equal access to health and social care worldwide. Find our projects listed below, divided into subthemes.

Patient engagement 

Engaging patients in health research and care is crucial for addressing complex issues effectively. Patients offer valuable first-hand insights, shaping solutions based on their experiences. Over the past decades, patient engagement has evolved from passive participation to active partnership. Athena examines how we can even further enhance collaborations between patients and researchers, policy makers, and care professionals.

Co-producing a Social Model of Well-being | Strengthens collaborations between the healthcare approach 'Welzijn op Recept' and the local community

Learning and Improvement in Healthcare | Monitors and evaluates projects focussed on improving the quality of Dutch healthcare 

Brain Foundation Netherlands | Needs exploration of people with brain disorders, their caregivers, health professionals and researchers

Vaccination Dialogues | Facilitates dialogues with citizens to align COVID-19 vaccination policy with needs in society and improve governmental learning (finalised)

Evidence in Action | Includes experiential knowledge in vaccination guidelines through AI analyses

Huntington's Disease Knowledge Network | Establishes a research agenda for the Dutch Huntington Knowledge Network based on experiential knowledge of the target group (finalised)

Dutch Arthritis Foundation | Develops the organisational strategy based on patients' experiences (finalised)

PARADIGM | Enables meaningful patient engagement (finalised)

Universal health coverage

Universal health coverage means everyone should access healthcare services without financial barriers, wherever and whenever needed. This requires a well-equipped and fairly distributed healthcare workforce, supported by decent working conditions. However, barriers like socioeconomic disparities and remote geographic locations persist, hindering access globally. Athena addresses these challenges, providing evidence-based solutions and tools for policymakers, researchers, and organisations.

AHEAD | Increases access to health services in Europe, especially in underserved areas (medical deserts) (finalised)

Pillars of Health | For an equitable geographic distribution of health workers across Europe

Healthcare for Undocumented Persons | Increasing access to healthcare for undocumented people in Amsterdam

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Lesbos Refugee Camps | Promoting healthcare democratisation and empowering refugee communities to shape their health  

Health innovations

Health systems worldwide struggle to meet populations' needs, due to factors like economic instability, climate change, social inequality, and aging communities. Innovations, whether technological or procedural, hold potential to improve health systems. However, they are often difficult to integrate as they challenge the status quo. Athena aims to understand and improve the interaction between a health innovation and the unit of adoption, whilst taking a systems perspective.

Doing eHealth Right | Reduces health inequalities by transforming the eHealth system

Power Structures in Nursing Care |  Investigating nurses power to influence the design of healthcare policies in the Netherlands 

Future Scenario Child and Family Protection | Develops a knowledge infrastructure that optimally promotes the learning capacity of the relevant actors involved

MELOMANES | Designs a reflexive practice training programme on cancer treatment through nanotechnology

Preparing for Emerging Infectious Diseases | Aligns short-term public health and long-term R&D responses

Spiritual Care | Embedding spiritual care in the home situation (finalised)

Sustainable health & care

Human- and planetary health are strongly intertwined. Human health deteriorates through environmental sustainability problems, like climate change, but improves by spending time in nature. Contradictory, the healthcare sector's ecological footprint, including CO2 emissions and pollution, is significant. Athena therefore seeks actionable strategies to enhance healthcare and public health practices while preserving ecological balance.

NATURELAB | Investigates and promotes the benefits of nature-based therapies for health, well-being, prevention, and rehabilitation

Green Metrics | Analyses how 'green metrics' can become part of health technology assessment (finalised)

Hi!Noord | Accelerates the health system transition in the Northern Netherlands to actively keep people healthy

FRAME | Co-creating research agendas to guide sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Social justice

Social justice is the promotion of fairness and equality in society. Athena addresses the systemic causes of discrimination, oppression, and inequality, e.g. based gender, socioeconomic status and disability. We co-create interventions to reduce stigma, strengthen health systems in humanitarian contexts, and build capacity for health practitioners in low-resource settings.

Collectivising Mental Health: Care strategies among trans leaders in Colombia | Training for trans human rights defenders 

What Matters Most | Culturally-sensitive approaches to assess and reduce health-related stigma

Gender-based Violence Care in Ethiopia | Explores mechanisms for integrating gender-based violence care into sexual and reproductive facilities in Ethiopia

Re/Presenting Europe | Healing the afterlives of colonialism 

ADHD-related Stigma | Examines how ADHD-related stigma impacts the lives of people with ADHD and aims to facilitate social inclusion

IMAGE | Improving employability of graduates with autism (finalised)


Nutrition is a critical aspect of health, with both undernutrition and overweight posing significant challenges. Improved nutrition is linked to reduced risk of diseases and better overall health. However, many different perspectives on nutrition co-exist, for example regarding its spiritual and cultural significance. Athena explores these to understand their implications for health transitions, and foster inclusive policies that respect different cultural and social backgrounds.

FoodCLIC | Makes urban food systems more inclusive and resilient, and empowers citizens to access healthier, sustainable foods

Supreme Nudge | Effects of healthy 'nudges' in supermarkets on the of dietary choices of customers (Dutch, finalised)

DOMINO | Drives the creation of plant-based fermented foods in Europe

Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture | Scaling-up nutrition-sensitive agricultural initiatives in South-East Asia (finalised)

B.Kind | Investigates how to improve the health and wealth of communities in Vietnam through locally-produced probiotics

Watch the Transformation Journey

Also take a look at the other research domains