What is Positive Health?

Positive Health is a transformative approach to health that goes beyond the traditional view of health as the absence of disease. It emphasizes the resilience of individuals in adapting to life's challenges and focuses on what truly matters to them. By promoting a shift from a disease-oriented focus to a health-oriented perspective, Positive Health empowers individuals to take control of their well-being and live fulfilling lives.

Positive Health can be a solution:

  • With a unique, simple tool,
  • people can reflect on their own health and
  • speak in an 'alternative conversation' about their essence, about what is important and which steps to take.

With Positive Health:

  • People are empowered to a healthier life.
  • Patients are more satisfied about their consultations.
  • Professionals experience more work pleasure.
  • A change in referral can lead to cost reduction.
  • Transformation from disease to health-oriented care is created.

Positive Health is a broader perspective on health, based on six dimensions. It is elaborated in the Netherlands and based on research from Machteld Huber and her team.


The way health and disease are thought about has changed significantly in recent years. For a long time, health was primarily defined as the absence of disease. Positive Health takes a broader view. It is not about health as a static fact or a goal to be achieved, but rather about the resilience of people to adapt to whatever life throws at them. This more dynamic approach does more justice to people and to what they care about. 


This broad interpretation of health is elaborated in six dimensions, which have emerged from research into what people themselves perceive health to be. The method or reflection tool gives the person feedback on their own health. By filling in the spiderweb with the six dimensions people become aware that health is not only bodily functions and mental wellbeing, but also, for example, meaningfulness, participation, quality of life and daily functioning matter. With the spider web, people can outline their own health and associate aspects. The Positive Health tool can be used as a prelude to an alternative dialogue about health and well-being. First you zoom out by looking broad at health and then you zoom in to talk about what is really important in people’s life.


If you see Positive Health in a broader context, specifically with the more than 10 years’ experience in the Netherlands), we learned that it is a driver of change. The broader perspective of health and really seeing the other, is about connecting with the needs of the other and deliver personalized healthcare. This asks for a mindset change from professionals. From ‘the repair reflex’ of taking care of people and wanting to solve their problems, making sure that people can find what is important to them and support and empower them towards steps people can take themselves. It is about humanizing healthcare. This is really about a system change from disease-oriented care to a health oriented focus. See the research done in the Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT)(Johansen) about Positive Health.

To describe the added value of Positive Health in healthcare there is more and more research ongoing at the moment to describe the benefits of Positive Health based on the 4 goals of the ‘Quadruple Aim Framework’:

  • Improving the health of the population.
  • Improving the patiënt experience.
  • Reducing costs.
  • Improving care team wellbeing.
  • Transformation from disease to health-oriented care is created.


More and more professionals and organisations embrace the concept and collaborate in communities. The language from policy makers in public health, social domain workers and health care workers can be different, even there is a shared focus. The broad perspective on health with the six dimensions of Positive Health supports the thinking in terms of cohesion. Specifically in local communities Positive Health supports the same way of thinking towards more resilience and empowerment.


Positive Health as movement is also about the mindset change towards a health-oriented focus. This needs a different way of thinking, doing, organizing, financing.

This will differ per country. In the international experience so far the broad vision and the method of using the tool is very universal. There are country and culture specific needs with regards to bringing the movement further in a country. It start with ambassadors, local stakeholders, who believe in the concept. Once a shared vision is created, a joint task or dream a coalition of the willing will be created towards more movement. More sense of purpose, sincere attention in health care and wellbeing, more space for (professional) autonomy and a broader perspective on health and focus on prevention makes that Positive Health is more and more embedded in the Netherlands. With Positive Health international we hope to expand this movement internationally.

Compared to other concepts of health

Various models, approaches and broad concepts of health have appeared in recent years. Often, the question is how Positive Health relates to the other broad approaches. There are a lot of similarities with the Blue Zones and Salutogenesis with regards to the vision. These concepts and perspectives used Machteld Huber for her inspiration and research to look for a new thinking about Health. The reflection tool of Positive Health supports the practical applicability for people and professionals to create awareness on the current health situation and empowers people towards a healthy and meaningful life.

Watch a short video about the start of Positive Health

by the founder Machteld Huber

In 2021 iPH, ZonMw and the Health Council of the Netherlands organised a festive conference to reflect together on 10 years of working and thinking from this dynamic vision on health and to explore the route towards a resilient society.