The student researcher

Alyssa Dijkstra is 22 years old and has just graduated from the HZ Sports Sciences study programme. She is very sportive herself and plays football at a high level. She travels from Middelburg to Ridderkerk for her trainings three times a week. For her graduation thesis she did a research into the health of residents of the Dauwendaele neighbourhood in Middelburg.

Baseline measurement

“I was supposed to do a baseline measurement. To map out how healthy the residents of Dauwendaele really were, so that the municipality of Middelburg would gain insight and could initiate actions to make residents live healthier lives. But when I started the research, it turned out that the municipality of Middelburg had already plotted a number of interventions. It is very good that the municipality is plotting interventions, but my baseline measurement was no longer a real baseline measurement. I was a bit disappointed by that. Nevertheless, I started the research and it turned out that the results were very valuable for the municipality.”

Disadvantaged neighbourhood

“I also presented the results of my research to the residents of Dauwendaele. It incited negative reactions. The residents thought they were portrayed negatively, as a disadvantaged neighbourhood, but that was not my intention at all. I found it hard to deal with. My research was intended to map the current state of affairs. I expect the health situation in other neighbourhoods to be the same as in Dauwendaele. Because Dauwendaele was selected as a pilot, we started there. I felt rather attacked. Fortunately, my internship supervisor, Mathilde Matthijssen, was present there with me and together we were able to give the right answers. I was happy that she was there to support me. You actually want to help the people in the neighbourhood, but the residents themselves interpret that differently. That is a pity. The municipality, on the other hand, was very satisfied with the research, giving them more insight into the figures and input to be able to continue with their interventions.”

Exercise, overweight and stress

“There are many opportunities for the municipality to take action on three aspects. For example, if you look at exercise, then a large proportion of the inhabitants did not comply with the Dutch standards as these are formulated. And about thirty percent of the population is overweight. The Dauwendaelers also scored low in stress and relaxation. I find that shocking. Enough opportunities for the municipality to set up actions so that the residents can live healthier lives.”

Movement path and promotion

“For example, the municipality can make the movement path more attractive. There is already a path, the blue-green route, but it is not very visible. If you make that route more visible and attractive, more people will start using it. You can stimulate people by hanging up certain pictures of exercises, such as knee bends or exercises with the help of a bench. Often people do not come up with this themselves, while they are very simple exercises that anyone can perform. There are also opportunities for the municipality in the field of nutrition. Not everyone is aware that a healthy diet does not necessarily have to be expensive. There is already an initiative where all kinds of vegetables are grown on a large plot of land that are sold at low prices, but not everyone knows about it. More promotion contributes to more awareness.”

Sports consultant

“My internship is rounded off. I learned a lot in the research group, especially in the field of research. Now I am looking for a job. The municipality has my number; they can always call me. I like being meaningful to other people. I really enjoyed the sports consultant course during my studies. When you are a sports consultant, you come up with a suitable exercise offer for people who cannot do that themselves. I would like to work in such a position.”