2. A partnership for the Future

Health promotion in a changing world

As far back as 1986, the Ottawa charter identified 5 pillars of health promotion, united by the goal of building healthy public policy. Those pillars were prescient. While their application and meaning changes with time, they remain fundamental.

The EuroHealthNet partnership believes in those principles and continues to apply and reinterpret them today and for tomorrow.

Investing in health and more equitable societies pays off. Integrated policy objectives which are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals are the best way to achieve improved health, wellbeing, and equity.

The term ‘health’ refers to both physical and mental health, which are interlinked. EuroHealthNet upholds the values of equity, justice, community engagement, and empowerment of women and men, which lie at the heart of health promotion.

Here are just some of the ways we have worked on these pillars over the last 12 months. Looking forward, we also believe that these pillars will continue to form part of the solutions for the COVID-19 recovery phase.

Create supportive environments: A healthier, fairer future for people and planet

Around the world in 2019, environmental challenges were at the forefront of public and policy agendas. More people than ever before – led by the young generations – took to the streets to call for action to protect and restore our environment.

EuroHealthNet is fostering the crucial transition towards greater sustainability by emphasising the strong links between the environment, health, and equity. Environmental determinants of health – such as clean air and green space, but also active travel and healthy food environments – are critical to good health, and have unequal impacts: those who are less and least well off suffer most from the negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, but benefit least from measures taken to address them, contributing to rising health inequalities.

Through the work of its Research Platform, leading the INHERIT Horizon2020 research initiative, EuroHealthNet demonstrates why environmental and health sectors must work together to achieve necessary change, and set out concrete ways how that can be done. It presents effective policies, practices and innovations that simultaneously restore the environment, whilst promoting health and health equity – in other words, that enable a ‘triple-win’.

Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019
Conference 'A Future for All to INHERIT: Taking Action Now'. December 2019

In December 2019 The European Commission set out its plans for the European Green Deal, a new growth strategy to achieve a sustainable EU economy, and climate neutrality in the EU by 2050.  It will strive to “leave no one behind” in this crucial shift towards greater sustainability. The proposed Just Transition Fund (JTF) is one of the key mechanisms aiming to mitigate the adverse effects of the transition towards a climate-neutral economy by supporting the most affected territories, sectors and workers concerned. Since then, EuroHealthNet’s Policy Platform has been monitoring and considering the specific measures being proposed and interacting with EU Institutions and Member States as they further develop the plans for the Just Transition Fund and European Green Deal as a whole.

We have continued to work on food systems and environments, looking at what we eat, how it is made, where it can be bought, and whether healthy food is available to all. We have contributed to the EU’s future farm to fork strategy. We organised an international exchange on healthy diets for children in partnership with our member, the Austrian Health Promotion Foundation (FGÖ). This exchange of good practices was an opportunity to reflect on thinking about food as a ‘system’, the shift towards the life course approach to better address determinants of childhood obesity.

Develop personal skills: Enabling people to look after their health

Digital tools are also increasingly being developed to enhance personal capacities of people to manage their own health. EuroHealthNet has launched its Policy Précis on Digital Health Literacy as not all digital health tools are suitable for all groups and some risk widening health inequalities instead of reducing them.

Digital tools are also increasingly being developed to enhance personal capacities of people to manage their own health. EuroHealthNet has launched its Policy Précis on Digital Health Literacy as not all digital health tools are suitable for all groups and some risk widening health inequalities instead of reducing them.

Comms network meeting November 2019 2

Developing personal skills relies on receiving credible, trustworthy information. As the COVID-19 pandemic reached Europe in early 2020, EuroHealthNet was able to quickly respond with a virtual meeting of communications specialists within our partner agencies to share good practices and common challenges on communication about the disease to hard-to reach audiences and vulnerable groups.

This resulted in both an exchange of good practices, and a comprehensive online library of resources. This includes translated information in 8 languages and easy to read formats, suggestions for approaches for tackling fake news and the information overload (infodemic), mental health and wellbeing, and ideas for risk communication with specific groups of people such as: Roma communities, children, people with visual and hearing impairment, migrant/ diaspora communities and refugees, professionals, religious communities, and people experiencing homelessness.

Reorient health services: Strengthening health promotion and disease prevention

The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with new questions about our economies, about the transformation of our health systems, and how to finance health and other systems such as care homes in the future. These new questions come after years of discussions about the chronic under-funding of public health, health promotion and disease prevention measures.

EuroHealthNet is demonstrating how to make transitions from spending on cures and treatments to investing in preventative approaches for better health and wellbeing.

We held our annual seminar in 2019 on the role of healthcare professionals on health promotion and disease prevention, and discussed how they can be more active in addressing the social determinants of health. The discussion was taken further during our General Council meeting, hosted by the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare in Madrid. We concluded that integrated, community-based services and systemic changes are key to enabling health and other professionals to adapt their roles to work for better health and wellbeing for all.

Building on our work on reducing health inequalities experienced by LGBTI people, we published a journal article titled Training healthcare professionals in LGBTI cultural competencies: exploratory findings from the Health4LGBTI pilot project.

This year, we also published an information guide on financing health promoting services. It explores how resources and capacities can be mobilised to reorient health services and invest more in prevention and promotion.

It is important to build the capacity of the public health and wider social policy community in Europe to access new funds, such as the increased investment fund ‘InvestEU’. Collaboration across sectors, and with public and potentially private actors, could lead to new ways of working and facilitate the transition at a scale that is needed for improved wellbeing and health of all people.

The guide further explores how we can increase funds through smarter taxation, boost investments and innovative thinking, and recognise health as an asset. It provides examples through a range of cross-sectoral case studies. The guide also presents a set of public health-focused investment criteria for potential investors or financial managers. The criteria aim to bridge the gap between public health, wellbeing and financial investment. The guide, which has been developed in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the WHO Coalition of Partners, will be supplemented by an interactive online tool launched in May 2020.

Build healthy public policy: Achieving an Economy of Wellbeing

EuroHealthNet has long argued for integrated policy making and implementation, whether labelled multi-sectoral, whole-of-government or “Health in All Policies”. Building healthy public policies and working beyond the health sector on the root causes of poor and inequitable health is our core business. Throughout the year, we monitored, analysed and acted on income and social protection, inequality, employment, and good quality early-years education across the social gradient.

2019 saw many EU developments, such as the European elections followed by the formation of a new EU Parliament and Commission. we briefed members on these developments across sectors, their consequences and opportunities to get involved and advocate for health equity. Additionally, we provided context and explanation to the different stages of the European Semester with reports, and briefed members on the Multiannual Financial Framework.

We responded to many EU policy consultations, providing the partnership’s expertise on topics such as gender equality and youth employment

We also welcomed the Council conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing during the Finnish Presidency, in October 2019. Economy and wellbeing policies are closely interlinked and address mutually reinforcing factors. Investing in peoples’ wellbeing is essential for a socially and environmentally sustainable economy. Inclusive, sustainable growth enables the enhancement of the wellbeing of both people and planet. The Economy of Wellbeing is a horizontal approach, emphasising the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation.

We contributed to the Finnish Presidency conference on the Economy of Wellbeing. We presented at workshops organised by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland in January 2020.

When considering the post-Covid-19 society, we would be keen to continue raising the Economy of Wellbeing concept throughout our work.

Strengthen community actions

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that community actions for health are essential to alleviate the burden on hospitals and the health care sector. We organised a webinar for the Partnership about strengthening population mental health, resilient communities and digital tools.

Through the CHRODIS+ Joint Action, we promoted the implementation of community policies and practices on healthy food and physical activity among children, as well as workplace health promotion, as these have been demonstrated to be successful in reducing the burden of chronic disease.

2019 also marked the start our partnership with the Joint Action Health Equity Europe (JAHEE), whose aim is to implement concrete actions to reduce health inequalities. A setting approach is used and Policy Frameworks are developed facilitating such action on the ground.

More promising practices from communities can be found in the INHERIT database, which includes over 100 actions in the areas of living, moving and consuming from across Europe. In addition, there are 15 detailed case studies of initiatives bringing sustainable results to cities and communities around Europe. They showcase inclusive approaches to improving health, increasing health equity and integrating the environment into local planning processes.

EuroHealthNet also organised a County Exchange Visit to the Region of Tuscany to discuss community actions to promote psychosocial health and prevent interpersonal violence.

Members visited the regional network of anti-violence centres, the Rose Code regional network set up to help adults and minors victims of violence and / or abuse, and Villa Lorenzi educational services for the prevention and rehabilitation of young people in difficulty.

Advocate, Enable and Mediate

EuroHealthNet addresses the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, commercial and behavioural determinants of health and wellbeing, where and when possible.

Advocacy, enabling and mediating are our core competencies for doing that. This means mapping and working with various stakeholders from academia, policy making and businesses. Proving evidence, framing and communicating messages, and enabling people to access credible information for making healthy and sustainable choices and decisions. It includes facilitation of exchange and coordinated action by all concerned: by governments, by health and other social and economic sectors, by civil society, by local authorities and by the media.

A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

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