Signature area:

"Individual Health & The Economic Environment"

In January 2015, SOM organized a meeting with 24 of FEB’s opinion leaders to discuss the research strategy for the upcoming years. One of the main outcomes of this meeting was the expressed ambition to make research themes in which our faculty has distinctive expertise more visible to external stakeholders. To realize that ambition, a limited number of “signature areas” will be

developed; next to the already existing research programs and centers of expertise, as will be explained below.


Signature areas are research areas of outstanding achievement enabled by FEB’s research capacity, investments, history and sense of place. Further investing in such research areas will bring FEB in line with peer institutions, identifying key priorities going forward. The signature areas will play a prominent role in the communication about our research, for example through our website. Moreover, it will help FEB to achieve sustainable and pre-eminent research impact, preferably going beyond a single department, research program, or individual, with the goal to advance FEB’s national and international profile, to recruit top students and faculty, and to access resources in a landscape that has become increasingly competitive (NWO, Horizon2020).


The signature area "Individual Health & The Economic Environment" has been developed in collaboration with Rob Alessie and Jochen Mierau. Our signature area has been motivated based on the dramatic development of the relationship between an individual’s health and the economic environment  over the last half century.


Starting from a static relationship between a patient and a physician, we have observed a shift toward a complex network of actors that influence the ability of individuals to self-manage their physical, emotional and social well-being. Indeed, individuals currently have ever growing opportunities to monitor their health, customize their diets and employers and schools are offering ever more opportunities to promote healthy life-styles. 


While the new dynamic in health offers individuals unprecedented opportunities, it simultaneously requires them to actively engage in the co-creation of their own health. For instance, a recurring trend around the world is that governments are retracting from the provision of care for elderly. In order to take over these tasks, individuals will have to adjust their financial plans to provide for the financing of long-term care and, amongst others, out-of-pocket medical expenditures. Such long-term financial planning requires individuals to have the ability to perform cognitive tasks that are notoriously underdeveloped in much of the population. 


With the above in mind, our signature area focuses on the challenges brought by the new dynamic in health and specifically acknowledges that health is created in the interaction between and individual and the economic environment. As displayed in Figure 1, the economic environment is an umbrella that brings together many aspects of the day-to-day life of individuals. Indeed, individuals will be faced by work environments that are becoming more and more interested in the health of the individual. The challenges provided by new visions on health necessarily require a multidisciplinary view on the individual. To this end, our signature area brings together scholars from different academic backgrounds to engage in multidisciplinary and integrative research on the effects of the interaction of individuals and their economic environment, given the physical, emotional, and social challenges of their daily lives.