Healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities in the Netherlands

Sylvia Huisman*, Dederieke Festen, Esther Bakker-van Gijssel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In this article, we describe the healthcare system for people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the Netherlands. The general background about healthcare for people with ID is the same worldwide: their health needs are often unrecognized and unmet. We delineate, from a historical perspective, the steps the Netherlands has taken to change the situation for them. The Netherlands crossed a milestone in 2016 when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Despite challenges in establishing numbers, an estimated ID prevalence of 1.45% was determined. The Dutch healthcare system has different levels, is funded through six distinct laws, and is complicated. The Netherlands has a spectrum of disability care services that increasingly collaborate in shaping the care of people with ID. People with ID and their representatives are increasingly involved in the process of shaping this care. The general practitioner plays a central role in the Dutch healthcare system, serving as the gatekeeper to medical specialists. Furthermore, the Netherlands recognizes the role of a physician for people with ID as a medical specialization. The core competencies of the ID physician include knowledge of the etiology and consequences of ID and associated health problems. The ID physician also knows how to deal with diagnostic and therapeutic barriers. Key challenges facing ID healthcare in the Netherlands include difficulties supporting people with ID due to the increasing complexity of society, concerns about continuity of care at the transition age (18−/18+), inadequate reach of population screening programs for people with ID, and limited availability of (routine) data for research on the ID population. The Dutch government encourages research in the ID field to overcome these challenges by financially supporting academic collaboratives. Substantial progress has been made, but key challenges remain, showing that there is still great room for improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12496
JournalJournal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities published by International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Wiley Periodicals LLC.


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