The healthiest city in the Netherlands, revealed

Of all the major cities in the Netherlands, Groningen has been voted the healthiest, according to research agency Arcadis.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam and Zaanstad (northwest of Amsterdam) are tied for the least healthy.

Arcadis took a look at 20 municipalities to measure health, based on a 2016 study by the RIVM that defined the characteristics of a healthy city.

The main research question was how the physical environment affects the overall health of the city. This was assessed by looking at five areas: mobility, outdoor space, natural environment, built environment, and community.

While Groningen takes the cake, next in line is Nijmegen, followed by Maastricht. Most in need of improvement are Zaanstad and Rotterdam, with Tilburg in hot pursuit.

Here’s how the cities ranked:

1. Groningen
2. Nijmegen
3. Maastricht
4. Almere
5. Amersfoort
5. Apeldoorn
7. Emmen
8. Terneuzen
9. Breda
9. Haarlem
9. Leeuwarden
12. Utrecht
13. Eindhoven
14. Arnhem
14. Den Haag
16. Enschede
17. Amsterdam
18. Tilburg
19. Rotterdam
19. Zaanstad

What’s so great about Groningen?

The study shows that Groningen has “a rich past when it comes to health.” The natural and built environments have supported residents through the plague, smallpox, and cholera pandemics, using the physical environment to prevent suffering. In 1872, for example, the “Handbook for Public Health Regulations” was created, which “formed the impetus for a healthier city.”

Over the decades, city plans have been prioritising the quality of life for residents when making important decisions regarding the physical design of the city. This has been shown through many examples, such as the closing off of the city centre to cars, and the promotion of bicycle use — in which Groningen is the leader in the Netherlands.

Further, Groningen’s “Healthy Aging Vision” includes a range of priorities that shine throughout the city. From loads of accessible green spaces, access to healthy food, and a focus on climate change and air quality, it’s no big surprise that the city is at the top of the list when it comes to health.

Overall national health is high

John Boon of Arcadis emphasises that “Globally, our cities score well when it comes to health.” He points to the high life expectancy and the number of years people live in good health in the Netherlands.

Boon says that because the municipalities are large and varied, there is a challenge in arranging the built environment in a way that benefits the wellbeing of the residents.

Plans must take into account whether cities are growing or shrinking, as well as factors such as the income and education of neighbourhoods, and work in cooperation with the residents to make the environment healthier. Arcadis finds that “The main conclusion is that good policy matters!”

Are you surprised by how any of the cities rank on this list? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Feature Image: Bert Kaufmann/Wikipedia Commons/CC2.0

Brin Andrews
Brin Andrews
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.


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