Angelica D’Sa: behavorial change has no one-size-fits-all answer

Students at our faculty are committed to making an impact on health, well-being and society. Among them is Angelica, a master’s student in Health Education and Promotion who is an expert by experience on the impact well-formulated advice can have on a person’s life.

A healthy mindset through physical therapy

Angelica can look back on a career as a top-level soccer player in South Africa. Unfortunately looking back means her career already ended, abruptly. Angelica: “In one night, I severely injured my knee due to multiple dislocations. Urgent surgery followed leading to a period of recovery and physical therapy. The physical therapy changed my life as the therapist didn’t solely look at the symptoms of my knee, but taught me to focus on my abilities, more so than the limits my knee now has.” Inspired by this experience, Angelica registered for a bachelor’s programme in physical therapy at Eindhoven.

Exploring health behavior in the Netherlands

Angelica moved to the Netherlands, because of the high level of education and the offer of English-taught programmes. “During my bachelor’s, I had a minor in exploring health behavior. I found that minor fascinating because physical therapy is more than just working with a broken leg, it’s also looking at the determinants that influence the recovery of that leg, such as environment, one’s perception of recovery or support networks.” The master’s programme Health Education and Promotion at Maastricht University was a perfect next step for Angelica to delve into her fascination with health behavior. 

Customised approaches for behavorial change

Health Education and Promotion provides its students with all the tools they need to apply behavorial change in their fields of interest. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer, nor does the programme expect it from their students. We use our background, combined with the tools we're given, to come up with answers. Even the exams consist of open-ended questions. My interpretation of a case can be different from that of a peer, without either of us being wrong.” This approach helps students in implementing interventions using their knowledge, customised to a certain group of people. “Which can differ a lot. Even in Limburg, a successful approach for the South region can fail in the North region.”

So many opportunities

Angelica is ending her master’s with a thesis looking at  lifestyle behaviours of individuals with different socio-economic levels, and how this influences dementia onset . “If all goes as planned it looks like I’ll graduate soon. Afterwards, I hope to take up the same role as my physical therapist did and become a physical coach for a few years. Because I love studying, pursuing a PhD is my long-term goal. But Health Education and Promotion provides so many opportunities for PhD topics all over the world, I’ll use the upcoming years to figure out in which direction I would like to go.” 

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