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About us

Pharos (Dutch Centre of Expertise on Health Disparities)

Health Disparities

There are health inequalities in the Netherlands. Quality and accessibility of care and prevention differs significantly between groups. 
Pharos is the national centre of expertise on health disparities. Our expertise focuses on:

  • Sustainable improvement of the quality, effectiveness and accessibility of care and prevention for people with limited health literacy, non-western migrants and refugees.
  • Reduce existing health disparities between different groups of people.

Our expertise focuses on the entire health care system and on all areas that are important for health.
We are also the national knowledge centre for the prevention of female genital mutilation.
The work of Pharos takes shape within a number of programmes and themes.

‘Gezond in…’ (‘Healty in…’)

A few years ago the Ministry of Health, Sports and Welfare started funding municipalities to stimulate a local integrated approach to reduce health inequalities as part of the National Prevention Program. Pharos supports this local approach through a program called ‘Healthy in....
Pharos offers tailored advice and support on local approaches to health disparities to 164 targeted municipalities.
Health inequalities, associated with low income and lower education, are influenced by various matters such as the possibility to participate in society, availability of a social network and a healthy living environment. In the integrated approach that we advice, all these aspects are addressed. 

Prevention and Care for Chronic diseases

People with little formal education and non-western migrants suffer more frequently from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, anxiety disorders and depression. Moreover, these groups often develop more serious conditions and complications.
Pharos´s Prevention and Care programme aims to improve the effectiveness of care and prevention for people with low literate people and non-western migrants suffering from chronic conditions. The focus is on supporting the primary care system in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
Prevention and early detection require a strong primary care system, with a central role for GPs, nurse practioners and/or health centres. In cooperation with the Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG), the National Association of General Practitioners (LHV) and the Centre for Healthy Living (CGL), Pharos collects and disseminates good examples of cooperation between prevention and care, between public health, GP services and the social domain.

Safe and responsible use of medicines among people with poor (health) literacy and migrants

Research shows that pharmacists have trouble recognising people with limited literacy (or low health literacy skills) and lack the techniques to help these patients.
In the coming years, Pharos will be working with the Dutch Association of Pharmacists (KNMP) to improve the safe use of medicines among semi-literate people, non-western migrants and people with limited health literacy.
The programme will include complementing the KNMP guidelines with subjects relating specifically to migrants and people with limited literacy. A toolkit will be developed for pharmacies to support the improvement of therapy compliance among migrants and people with limited literacy. Pharmacists will be better equipped to counsel these groups when issuing them with medicines. In addition and where relevant, the education and training schemes for pharmacy staff will be supplemented with knowledge on responsible medicine use among migrants and people with low literacy.

Youth Health Programme

Many children from a migrant background and children from families with a low socioeconomic status (SES) develop less successfully than other children in the Netherlands.
Our Youth Health programme is committed to these children and focuses on reducing health inequalities and improving the quality and effectiveness of (youth) care and prevention. Care and prevention are not always sufficiently tailored to the needs of this group of children. By making interventions and methods more culturally sensitive, for example by taking into account low literacy, professionals and institutions reach vulnerable children and their parents sooner and better.

Participation and patient self-determination

A health care system that takes into account differences between people benefits the entire Dutch population. That is why this program strives to optimise quality, effectiveness and accessibility of health care for people with limited health care skills and migrant groups. 
We highlight the health care experience of clients with limited health skills and migrant groups.
We strengthen the position of the patient by making basic information about the health care system more accessible to them, and promote participation in patient organisations.
We provide health insurers and municipalities with targeted information to enable them to purchase effective care and support, including for clients from migrant backgrounds.

Female genital mutilation

Pharos has been appointed by the Dutch government as the national knowledge centre for FGM and has taken up the fight against FGM since 1993. We conduct research, disseminate fact and figures on FGM. Pharos supports prevention of FGM and helps to improve the medical and psychosocial care for circumcised women. More information and facts and figures. 

Asylum seekers and refugees

For asylum seekers with permission to stay maintaining good health is a precondition for their successful participation and integration into Dutch society. For asylum seekers who are being deported, good health is a precondition for their sustainable return.
The Health for Asylum Seekers and Refugees Programme directs knowledge towards improving the quality and effectiveness of (preventive) health care for asylum seekers and refugees. It provides advice to professionals and organisations working with these groups and develops practically applicable knowledge products.

Health for the Elderly

The number of elderly people is increasing, and that also applies to elderly migrants. Non-Western and lower educated elderly people are generally in poorer health than Western and higher educated elderly people. Language skills and education affect the (lack of) health literacy.

Culturally sensitive care

Pharos implements the ‘Health and Care for Elderly Migrants’ programme, together with the alliance of organisations for the elderly CSO and the Network of Organisations of Elderly Migrants (NOOM). The programme’s activities are aimed at the progressive development and safe-guarding of good, targeted and culturally sensitive care for elderly migrants.  Our focus is on: 

  • Dementia
  • Responsible use of medicines
  • Awareness and participation in exercise programmes aimed at preventing falls
  • Strengthening quality criteria from the perspective of the elderly, including migrants
  • Support for informal (migrant) carers

Limited Health Literacy

Health Literacy has been included in our programs as an overarching theme. Pharos helps health care professionals to communicate effectively with low-literate patients. In addition we develop informative visual materials that can be used during conversations with patients/clients.

Also  eHealth applications are often not yet tailored to the needs of people with low health literacy. Pharos encourages eHealth developers to involve clients/patients in the development of eHealth initiatives. We offer them know-how and help test their applications amongst people with limited health literacy. More information: eHealth4All


Centre of expertise on health disparities
Arthur van Schendelstraat 620 (third floor)
3511 MJ  Utrecht
PO Box 13318
3507 LH Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel. +31 30-234 9800