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People who live in regions characterised by population decline, are less healthy than people in other regions in the Netherlands. Verweij and Van der Lucht show that about 25% of the populations in South Limburg, Zeeland Flanders and North East-Groningen do not feel healthy, whereas 19% of the population in the rest of the Netherlands does not feel healthy. In their research, they found population characteristics and selective migration to explain part of this difference, although the role of these factors is (still) modest. More important is the socioeconomic disadvantage in the shrinking regions. They call the regions to anticipate on the population decline: aim at the specific target population and innovate health care. Three shrinking areas react.
Zeeland Flanders emphasise that this call also concerns other sectors such as housing supply, education and the labor market. Furthermore, many shrinking areas are close to the borders, cooperation with Belgium or Germany provides possibilities. Flemish cities can for example supply education and labor for the population in Zeeland Flanders. In South-Limburg, they invest in improving health in specific residential districts, but they also implement policies to persuade the higher educated to stay in their region. This way, the development of the Kennis-as (knowledge axis) Limburg might contribute to narrowing the health gap with other Dutch regions. North-Netherlands, the third shrinking region, is characterised by relatively many elderly with a lower socioeconomic status. The disability burden is therefore relatively large. They stress the importance of health care innovation and the contribution of sectors to improve the health status of inhabitants of this shrinking region.