Jet Bussemaker
Professor Science, policy an societal impact, in particular in health care, Leiden University, Netherlands.

Breaking the boundaries

The Dutch health care system belongs to the best of the world.  We have highly educated doctors and nurses, we use the newest technologies, we have very specialized treatments and accessible medicine. So, nothing to complain, no problems to be solved yet? Unfortunately not. Despite – or maybe also as a result of – the high complexity of the system, we are losing sight of where it all started with; the improvement of health and quality of life of citizens.

In my presentation, I will argue that health care is not only a matter of knowledge and technology but also – and maybe in the first place- an issue of normativity and social in- and exclusion. Many health care issues are wicked problems, i.e. problems that are difficult to solve because they are highly complex in itself (knowledge), and, consequently, demand effort from many different parties and professionals who usually are inclined to think from different normative and moral  frameworks.  Moreover,  these wicked problems are becoming more complex in a world showing a growing tendency towards indifference and inequality. In an indifferent and unequal world it becomes increasingly difficult to listen and to understand. It is all too easy to stick to your own narrow view. And for professionals, it is not enough to repeat your knowledge, e.g. for a doctor  to explain the diagnosis and the treatment. We have to find new ways to communicate, to listen, to reflect upon our own scientific and societal assumptions and to look beyond the borders of disciplines and social communities, in order to come to a shared understanding. In short, we have to rethink the genuine concept of healthcare and what it is for. Maybe we should talk more about good health instead of sickness and healthcare; more on wellbeing and positive health, than on fighting diseases, more about people, less about patients.



Prof. dr. Jet Bussemaker  is professor of Governance, Science and Societal Impact, especially concerning Health Care at Leiden University Medical Center and the Governance Faculty of Leiden University. She was appointed July 2018. Starting from June 2019, she will also be the President of the Dutch Council for Public Health and Society.

Bussemaker is a political scientist with both an academic and political career. She served as Minister of Education, Science and Culture from 2012 till the end of 2017. Previously, she served as the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sports from 2007 to 2010.  In the 1998 elections Bussemaker was elected into the House of Representatives for the social-democratic Party (Partij van de Arbeid).

She started her career as lecturer and researcher at both the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam between 1993 and 2007. In 1997 she was visiting fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University. She returned to academic life from 2010 till 2012 as dean from the University of Applied Science in Amsterdam, also joining the board of the University of Amsterdam.