How health becomes 'makeable'

On 15 December, there was a first explorative meeting around the theme MakeHealth, a project about the role of Fablabs and DIY making in the context of health and care. In this project we approach health as “the ability to adapt and self manage, in the face of physical, emotional and social challenges”, according to the definition of Huber et al. (2011). With this definition as a starting point, we aim to explore how people can become active makers of care solutions, that contribute significantly to the empowerment of patients.


How can we apply the make-philosophy in a care context? During the meeting all participants answered this question from their own background. A mixture of care providers, patients, designers, reaches, and students were present. They all agreed that a problem owner does not necessarily need to be an expert in making. Besides that, they agreed that problem owners do not have to visit a Fablab, but (mobile) Fablab facilities can also be offered in a care context.

Important is to communicate the idea that people can start playing an active role in devising and developing solutions. Different existing examples of care-related Fablab projects were presented. The examples ranged from disruptive, to practical, to more poetic ones.

Next steps

The meeting showed that presenting different examples of ‘Making for Health’ gets people thinking. It inspires them. By seeing what is possible, people are encouraged to think differently about health-related challenges. Currently, there is no central repository for those examples. A widely supported conclusion of the evening is that everybody liked to have an accessible online platform on which applications of ‘Making for Health’ (from the wide definition of Huber) are retrievable and sortable. Developing such a platform would be a great result of the MakeHealth project.

Another next step is to create an interdisciplinary make-team around an explicit health care challenge. There was consensus on the idea to form three teams: one team with a care organisation as problem owner, one team with a patient as problem owner, and one team with a care professional as problem owner. The goal is to develop and make a solution for the given challenge. In this bottom-up approach, we are well aware of (but are not deterred by) the possible conservatism and rigidity of the current healthcare system.

I am really looking forward to see what the teams will come up with. Are you also interested in these developments, do you want to think along, or do you have a specific health care challenge you’d like to tackle? Sign up for the Meetup Group MakeHealth.



Hester van Zuthem