Urgent letter to the cabinet: prevent people from falling ill due to poverty

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A general practitioner holds an online consultation hour. Staged photo for illustration
NOS News

In an open letter, the KNMG doctors’ federation and more than seventy healthcare organizations such as hospitals and GGDs call on the government to take a long-term approach to the causes of health differences between the various population groups. All Dutch people deserve an equal chance of living as healthy as possible, the urgent letter states.

The doctors and healthcare organizations are asking for a program that will run for twenty years. This approach must be laid down in law and there must be independent supervision of its implementation. For example, the differences in social security must be reduced.

The signatories also write that when policy changes are made by the government, the influence on the health of citizens must always be examined.

Debt and stress

Many doctors have the feeling that they mainly focus on treating symptoms, KNMG writes. Someone who is at risk of losing his job is prescribed sleeping pills and a child who has asthma due to a moldy house is given a puff. Mopping with the tap open, according to the signatories of the letter.

Thirty percent of the Dutch have little education and a low income, says chairman of the KNMG Doctors Federation René Héman in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal. People from this group are at greater risk of health problems.

“The energy poverty that puts additional pressure on finances has a major impact,” says Héman. “Because of debt and stress, people get high blood pressure and can’t afford their medicines. They also get mental problems.”

Care versus living environment

Addressing the problem has proved difficult. “We have seen for a long time that the socio-economic health differences are not getting smaller. People from this group die on average 8 years earlier and have a lower quality of life from the age of fifty,” says the KNMG chairman.

With the letter, which is being presented to Minister Schouten of Poverty Policy and State Secretary Van Ooijen of Health, the signatories want to make it clear that this difference in opportunities is unacceptable.

In the letter, KNMG also points out that the cause and solution of health problems often lie outside the healthcare sector. Medical care affects 11 percent of a person’s health. A person’s lifestyle and the social and physical environment contribute almost seventy percent to a person’s health status.

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