Student Jitte wants to make the world healthier, through her studies and politics

“Everyone knows that an unhealthy lifestyle makes people sick, yet nothing changes”

Master student Jitte Jennekens (23) worries about the rising amount of people that are suffering from diabetes or obesity: “On a daily basis I encounter scientific articles that emphasize the extensive increase in numbers, as well as the growing healthcare expenses resulting from these illnesses. It’s a big issue, in desperate need of a solution.” With her studies Regenerative Medicine & Technology she hopes to contribute to solutions that, in addition to treatment, also provide ways that help to prevent these illnesses beforehand.

She is currently doing an internship at a biomedical lab where she is experimenting with stem cell therapy for people with diabetes. Together with her fellow researchers, they aim to develop cells that are able to produce their own insulin and can replace the cells of diabetic patients that have lost the capability to do so. “Until now,  these patients have had to inject insulin for the rest of their lives. How wonderful would it be if in a couple of years they wouldn’t need to anymore”, says Jitte. She considers this research to be a great example of the way science can contribute to societal solutions.

Foto van Jitte Jennekens

More research on preventive measures

Nevertheless, Jitte points out that stem cell therapy is not the only solution, since Obesity and Diabetes are mainly the result of unhealthy food and bad living habits: “An unhealthy lifestyle makes people sick. The curious thing is that everyone seems to be aware of this, healthcare workers, politicians, scientists, society, yet nothing changes.” She therefore believes that the focus should be on developing preventive measures that allow people to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, before such illnesses are able to develop.

Everyone deserves a fair chance to live a healthy life

Not only through her studies is Jitte keen to contribute to better healthcare, she also aspires to shape the political landscape and encourage stakeholders to make more informed and better choices in regards to health. At the moment, she is involved in the ‘Student Cabinet’ or ‘Studentenkabinet’, an initiative from all Dutch universities to connect science, politics and education. As a representative from University of Utrecht she represents ‘the Ministry of Health and society’, where she hopes to share her insights and promote effective solutions for healthcare: “Everyone deserves a fair chance to live a healthy life.”