MSc Thesis opportunity: gardening for cancer survivors

In the Netherlands, 1 out of 3 people get cancer; about 100,000 individuals per year. More than 60% of those diagnosed with cancer survive. However, survivors often experience long-term side effects of cancer and its treatment, which greatly influences their quality of life, ability to function, success in re-integration in social processes, and long-term survival.

Evidence shows that a healthy diet and regular physical activity are beneficial in cancer prognosis. Most current intervention programs are focused on dietary advice and exercise programs in gyms. However, such programs are hardly appealing to the majority of cancer survivors. We introduce a novel approach which may better fit the needs, possibilities and interests of cancer survivors: gardening. Scientific research underlines the virtues of gardening: it prolongs life, improves mental and physical well-being, increases quality of life and acuity, and  supports social cohesion. Moreover it can help to increase consumption of (home-grown) plant foods.

The idea of offering cancer patients the possibility to work in gardens is based on a similar project in the USA. The aim of this thesis is to study this program, specifically by investigating it from the point of view of the patients – how did they perceive the program – and to compare this to the situation in the Netherlands. What is available for (former) patients in both countries, what do survivors need or want, and how would (or in the case of the USA: how did) gardening fit in people’s rehabilitation programs? We invite you to study this from the perspective of Social Practice Theory, which focuses on habits and routines in daily life.

We are looking for a motivated MSc student that is interested in writing a thesis with the Rural Sociology Group on the topic of gardening for cancer survivors. The thesis will consist of a literature-based study, but the student is also invited to travel to the USA to interview (ex) patients and study a similar project there. The report will preferably be written in English.

More information? Contact Esther Veen (Esther.Veen@wur.nl)

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