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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.2 Administration and governance

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Governance
  2. Cross-sectorial cooperation


Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports

The main actor involved in policy-making in the field of health and well-being on national level is the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Ministry of VWS). This Ministry is responsible for health, welfare and sports for all age categories, including youth. The Ministry describes their motto as follows: ‘The Netherlands healthy and well’. The ambition of the Ministry of VWS is to keep everyone healthy as long as possible and to restore the sick to health as quickly as possible. The Ministry also seeks to support people with physical or mental disadvantages and promotes social participation. Every four years the Ministry publishes a health policy paper, in accordance with the Public Health Act (Wpg). In this health policy paper, goals and strategies for the entire Dutch population for the next 4 years in the field of health are described.

With regard to public health, the Ministry of VWS encourages people to adopt healthy life styles: to exercise more, to refrain from smoking, to use alcohol in moderation, to practise safe sex and to eat healthy. People who have problems with their health should be able to call on their general practitioner (GP), the hospital or other forms of health care. They are insured for this care and therefore have a right to health care (see 7.1). Together with health insurers, health care providers and patients organisations, the Ministry of VWS ensures that there are sufficient facilities and that people have enough choice.

As regards welfare, there are groups of residents in the Netherlands  benefit less from the welfare state. They are not economically independent or do not take an active part in society. In collaboration with other ministries, such as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of VWS strengthens the social infrastructure. See also the heading cross-sectoral cooperation. Volunteer work and youth care are important parts of the social policy.

Being active in sports promotes health, provides social contacts and contributes to self-development. The 'sports mission' of the Ministry of VWS is to make it possible for everyone to play sports. In addition, the Ministry also focuses on and funds top-level sports, so that the Netherlands can perform well in international competition.



GGD GHOR Nederland is the Association of Community Health Services (GGD’s) and Regional Medical Emergency Preparedness and Planning (GHOR) offices in the Netherlands. Their task is to look after the interests of the 25 GGD's and GHOR-offices, to promote public health and safety and to improve the quality of public health.

GGD's and GHOR-offices contribute to guarding, improving and protecting the health of the Dutch people. GGD GHOR Nederland supports those activities by:

  • Representing the 25 local GGD's and GHOR-offices and their interests with local government, political and national social organizations;
  • Offering a platform for the GGD's and GHOR-offices to meet and discuss ideas;
  • Acquiring and executing projects that offer support to the way GGD's and GHOR-offices operate or contribute to the implementation of new policy areas.

The Netherlands has 25 local community health services (GGD’s) divided over the country. The community health services will assist all 17 million citizens in the Netherlands, in all provinces, districts, cities, communities and streets. They aim at preventing health risks and advancing the health of all citizens, including youth. Preventing health risks means that the community health services focus  on preventing that people fall ill and have to see a general practitioner or go to a hospital. All Dutch municipalities have the task to protect, control and promote the health of their inhabitants. To carry out these tasks,  municipalities have community health services. There are close to 400 municipalities in the Netherlands which are responsible for 25 community health services. This means that one community health service is often directed by several municipalities jointly. The tasks of the community health services are not always identical, since every municipality commissions specific tasks  to the GGD, which are specified in the municipal memoranda about local policy on community health.

Nevertheless, all Dutch community health services have a number of uniform tasks. These tasks are specified in the law: the Public Health Act (Wpg). Every GGD is required to carry out at least the tasks described in this act. In brief, the tasks of the community health services are:

  • Child health care
  • Environmental health care
  • Socio-medical advice
  • Periodic sanitary inspections
  • Public health care for asylum seekers
  • Medical screening
  • Health education
  • Community mental health care


Youth health care

Youth health care (jeugdgezondheidszorg, JGZ) is the responsibility of the local municipalities. In 241 Dutch municipalities youth health care is performed by the GGD. The GGD examines children at child consultation clinics and at schools (primary and secondary education). During a child’s first  3 years, there are around 12 contact/examination moments, when children also receive vaccinations. During primary education there are two contact/examination moments and in secondary education usually another two. The GGD also provides information on health, childraising and child development. The GGD works closely together with schools, police, care institutions, neighbourhood teams and the municipalities. In addition, the GGD is often part of the local Youth and Family Centre and for instance supervises child day care.

In other municipalities, the JGZ is housed in separate care organizations, independent foundations or combinations including the GGD. In the Netherlands, municipalities also have the responsibility to ensure that youth mental health care is available. 


Cross-sectorial cooperation

In the field of youth health and well-being the Ministry of VWS and other ministries cooperate. There is for example cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. They cooperate among others in the area of sports, since they both support the national Youth Sports Fund. They also cooperate on promoting health in schools and childcare centres. The Ministry of VWS also cooperates with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is for example responsible for  curricula for sports education in schools and also works towards promoting health at schools and childcare centres. There is also cooperation between the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports and the Ministry of Security and Justice, for instance on the joint responsibility for substance use policy. There is also cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, for example on the economic significance of sports and health.

There is also cooperation between the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and the Ministry of VWS. The RIVM conducts scientific research on behalf of government. The health policy paper, that the Ministry of VWS has to publish every four years and which is mentioned in the first paragraph of 7.2, is also based on scientific research conducted by RIVM  on the state of health and well-being of the Dutch population.