Within health care, the emphasis is now shifting from curing diseases and achieving maximum healthcare results towards maintaining health. Prevention helps to raise awareness, promotes self-care and healthy living, and is an investment in optimal long-term health. For example, prevention has great benefits in terms of the enjoyment of life and taking part in society. In the long term, preventive care also contributes to a reduction of costs in health care and thus to an economically responsible organization of care.
The research within the Research Group Innovations in Preventive Care focuses on people's behaviour, risk factors and / or symptoms. The research concerns both universal and selective prevention in groups most at risk of developing unhealthy behaviour or developing disease, namely children and elderly.
Our research program is initiated by the field of oral health care and is further expanded with research within other health care disciplines. Prevention is the core practice of dental hygienists; their activities are aimed at behavioural change, learning a healthy lifestyle and increasing patient self-reliance. The research is also focused on a wide range of health care professionals (dietician, speech therapist, nurse, general practitioner, optometrist, physiotherapist, etc.) that aim to increase patients’ self-reliance, general health and quality of life. This objective almost always requires an interprofessional approach. The knowledge gained within the research program will also be interprofessional and / or translated to other professional groups.
Screening and early detection
Due to an increasing appeal to citizens' self-reliance, the importance of screening and early detection is increasing. We focus specifically on the added value of identifying unhealthy behaviour and health literacy skills as targets for early detection, rather than just detecting diseases. By mapping persons’ risk behaviours, we can work more focused on maintaining health. In this way, we can help people to learn healthy behaviours aiming to delay or completely prevent disease. The interventions should focus on increasing health literacy skills, with the aim of promoting citizens' self-reliance and participation. Care professionals need knowledge on to what extent we are able to do such screenings, who should perform these and which screening/detection tools are reliable.
Inter professional approach on prevention
Research activities within this theme are aimed at integration of health care and well-being, implementation of preventive interventions closely to people’s lives and experiences. Within the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht multiple health care and social studies programmes have the opportunity to develop, implement and evaluate new integrated (inter professional) preventive interventions. The research group responds to the need to study the effects of combined preventive interventions aimed at common determinants of different risk factors as suggested by the governmental National Prevention Programme. Particularly, research on cost-effectiveness of preventive interventions with attention for outcome measures as quality of life, self-reliance and community participation have the main focus, as these are good outcome measures for interprofessional preventive interventions.
Integration of oral health prevention in health care
The research group takes the lead in research of effective preventive interventions by dental hygienists and other oral health care professionals, both within and outside dental practice. This is done through short and long term clinical intervention studies and (cost)effectiveness studies. Specifically, the research group will provide knowledge about preventive strategies which can be used in cooperation with youth health care services, earlier in life so that the first caries lesion can be postponed or even prevented in small children. In order to provide better oral health care for older people, we promote cooperation between general practitioners, diabetes nurses, physician assistants, oral health care professionals and dieticians. Hereby, we focus on awareness (and behavioural change) in elderly, informal caregivers and health care professionals about the importance of oral care in elderly. Also we perform research on the role of oral health care on the prediction of frailty in older people.