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A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2019-June 2020

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A Modern Partnership for a Changing World

EuroHealthNet Annual Report June 2019-June 2020

4. Practice

The work of the practice platform is to develop knowledge for the implementation of effective strategies, programmes, and initiatives to promote health and reduce health inequalities.

Our work this year has included

International exchanges on shared challenges

Exchanging best practices in tackling chronic diseases

Guidance on financing health promoting services

A series of webinars

To stimulate exchange of knowledge and best practices, this year we organised two international exchanges for senior staff from partner agencies: one on healthy diets for children, and one on interpersonal violence.

We have also lead work on the transfer and implementation of good practices for health promotion and disease prevention in the Joint Action CHRODIS PLUS. The aim of CHRODIS PLUS is to implement pilot projects and generate practical lessons in the field of chronic diseases. This year we published, in Collaboration with THL (Finland), the first scientific article on our findings. In it, we discuss key elements to help the transfer and adoption of good practices which will strengthen efforts to reduce health inequalities and improve health for all.

In the practice platform we strive to be at the forefront of developments within the field of health promotion. We also seek to explore new avenues of opportunity where we can strengthen knowledge and capacity. This year we have continued this endeavour by launching our Information Guide for Financing Health Promoting services and our related online resource.

With these resources we aim to stimulate discussion and debate between health promoters and the world of finance. We hope to provide options ways for these two divergent fields to come together and work towards equitable public services. This effort is aligned with our country exchange visits and capacity building events where we seek to tackle shared problems together, learn from one another, and address shared challenges.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have stepped up our online engagement and organised digital events to facilitate exchange on measures and practical interventions to address needs among the Partnership. We designed a series of webinars on topics including Ramadan and COVID-19, mental health, on digital tools and data for health, and on the Climate.

Tackling shared problems together

The Practice Platform’s underlying activity is international knowledge exchanges. Through the organisation of Country Exchange Visits among its members, EuroHealthNet builds capacity and preparedness of national and regional health authorities to respond to shared societal challenges. The two visits per year offer an opportunity to senior staff from EuroHealthNet member organisations to visit each other, showcase their activities, analyse, receive feedback, and initiate follow up actions.

 

Promoting psychosocial health: multidisciplinary, integrated and institutional approaches to prevent violent behaviours and support victims of violence – Florence, Italy

Public health professionals are essential in addressing the causes of and responses to violence.

Throughout the exchange, hosted by the Directorate for Citizenship Rights and Social Cohesion of the Region of Tuscany, representatives of national and regional public health institutions discussed ways to improve the identification and support to victims of physical and psycho-social violence. The group concluded that public health professionals are essential in addressing the causes of and responses to violence. As integrated and holistic approaches for violence prevention are needed to achieve more effective prevention programmes, cross-sectoral collaboration among different authorities such as education, judiciary, law enforcement or health must be mandatory.

For good practice examples and recommendations for action:

Country Exchange Visit, Tuscany. October 2019
Country Exchange Visit, Tuscany. October 2019

Promoting Healthy Diets for Children – Vienna, Austria

Applying new knowledge to improving children’s diets.

In partnership with its member Austrian Health Promotion Foundation (FGÖ), EuroHealthNet facilitated an exchange of good practices and experience ensuring healthy diets amongst children. It was an opportunity to reflect on major developments in the past, and analyse why certain initiatives were able to drive positive changes. The group considered how can we apply this knowledge in the future to further improve children’s diets. We addressed thinking about food as a ‘system’, the shift towards the life course approach to better address determinants of childhood obesity, and opportunities in maternity wards.

For good practice examples and recommendations for better performance, read the report.

Country Exchange Visit, Austria. October 2019
Country Exchange Visit, Austria. October 2019

EuroHealthNet’s webinar series 2020

In light of the travel restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, EuroHealthNet events were moved online. In addition, we organised a series of webinars for members which will run over the summer. In April and May four webinars were held:

Ramadan and COVID-19

To support EuroHealthNet members with some of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, an informal online meeting was held with Dr Farha Abbasi, a renowned psychiatrist and international expert in Muslim Mental Health at the University of Michigan (USA), to talk about the topic of Ramadan (23 April – 23 May 2020) and COVID-19.

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    How can we halt the spread of the infection, make the Ramadan and celebrations as positive an experience as possible, and maintain trust between the different communities?

    The main conclusions were:

    • All conversations and other forms of targeted communication towards the Muslim community should begin with an understanding of Islam
    • It is crucial to understand the social and community aspects of Islam, and Ramadan in particular
    • Public health  practitioners  must  work  closely  with  religious  leaders and local Islamic Centres to help the community to understand what is possible and how and why to adhere to social distancing rules.
    • COVID-19 containment measures should build on the assets present in Muslim communities.

Public sector responses to addressing mental health needs at population level of the COVID-19 crisis now and looking ahead – sharing of good practices and learnings

The COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching social, economic and political repercussions across the globe. Alongside the impacts on people’s physical health, it can also have profound effects on mental health and wellbeing, increasing anxiety, stress and depression.

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    The exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, the greater impact on more vulnerable groups, and difficulties in accessing support and services all need to be urgently considered. Prevention and positive mental health promotion, as well as targeted support, are fundamental.

    The webinar set out examples of initiatives which have been developed to meet mental health needs in relation to COVID-19, and provided an opportunity for EuroHealthNet members to discuss and exchange good practices and ideas on mental health promotion at regional and national level, as well as to raise any issues they are facing. It built on good practices already identified during a recent EuroHealthNet communications network meeting, and include a focus on the use of digital tools and on building community resilience.

    The main conclusions were:

    • The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. Survey results show increased rates of anxiety, sleep disorders, loneliness, depression, exacerbation of pre-existing mental health issues, and rise in alcohol abuse and substance use.
    • Countries have rapidly put in place a diversity of response measures. The pandemic has accelerated a transition to telehealth and the online provision of mental health support and care. Off-line, more traditional tools and engagement remain valuable, in particular for reaching vulnerable groups.

    An EU-level response to mental health promotion across policy sectors (health, social, digital, education, employment) is encouraged. Efforts to certify digital mental health tools could be explored.

Digital health

Digital innovation is creating new opportunities to transform the organisation and delivery of health care and public health interventions.

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    In addition, as it becomes clear that digital technologies are already re-shaping the way we live and work, major effects on people’s health and wellbeing can be expected. New digital applications are also playing an important role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, including through providing services via remote access and tackling the spread of the outbreak through tracing technologies.

    In line with new European Commission’s (EC) political priorities and as part of its strategy “Shaping Europe’s Digital Future”, the EC has made new proposals to boost digital innovation and put forward a European Strategy for Data and the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

    Seizing the opportunity, EuroHealthNet organised an online discussion for our members to exchange on their expectations and concerns regarding the use of new digital technologies in public health, with a particular focus on data and AI systems. We considered their use in tackling the current health emergency as well as other societal challenges. This meeting allowed members to share their experiences and learn from each other.

Climate, health, and inequalities

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as an acute health crisis, for years, scientists have been warning about the related but more chronic environmental and climate crisis.

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    If un-checked, it is likely to have devastating consequences over the medium and long term for the sustainability of health systems, and for people’s health and well-being. As during this COVID-19 crisis, the vulnerable members of our societies are likely to suffer more, but to benefit least from our responses.  The EU is taking action, through initiatives like the EU Green Deal and the Climate Pact, which encourages people and organisations to join forces and become more involved. The health sector is a very important stakeholder in this work. Its ability to respond may however be limited, since the environment does not fall within its traditional remit.

    This webinar explored what the public health sector can and is doing to respond to the interlinked issues of climate change, health and inequity. It also explored if and how the COVID-19 crisis may provide the health sector with an opportunity to take further action on the climate. The EuroHealthNet partnership benefited from the input of expert speakers, and shared information and good practices on these issues, exploring together how the public health sector can take bolder action on issues with such a strong impact on population health and well-being.

How to finance health promoting services

In the publication Financing Health Promoting Services — An Information Guide we presented different ways to design and implement health promoting services, with attention given to different processes and procedures of financing. It describes solutions for financing and delivering health promoting services through a range of cross-sectoral case studies. The guide also included a set of public health-focused investment criteria for potential investors or financial managers. These criteria aim to bridge the gap between public health and financial investment.

With this guide, as well as further collaborations and work in the field of social investment, we sought to build the capacity of the public health and wider social policy community to access new funds and to help health professionals understand the language of the finance and investment world.

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    This guide is timely as it demonstrated how to make shifts and transitions from spending on cures and treatments to investing in preventive approaches for better health and wellbeing, avoiding potential accumulation of health problems and rising healthcare costs.

    It is innovative as it explored new sources of finance and new ways of problem solving beyond traditional models, metrics, partners, responsibilities and budgets.

    It is practical and empowering as it included concrete and inspiring ‘out-of-the-box’ examples of how the right resources and capacities can be mobilised to help finance, build and sustain these shifts.

    The report includes the following list of case studies:

    – French Finansol Label – signalling ethical finance, France

    – Prioritisation Framework for public health investments, United Kingdom

    – Allocating part of income tax for health promotion, Lithuania and Portugal

    – The Hungarian public health product tax, Hungary

    – The Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax, Ireland

    – The Prevention Act, Germany

    –  European Investment Bank financing of primary care centres, Ireland

    – Activate – social impact bond to prevent heart disease, Canada

    – Combatting loneliness and social isolation, United Kingdom

    – Social outcomes contract for a preventive and healthy workplace, Sweden

    – Combined Lifestyle Interventions covered by insurance funds, the Netherlands

    – Pilot Koto-SIB for the employment of immigrants, Finland

    – Job-rotation as a tool to maintain employability – TErrA project, Germany

     

    The guide is freely available on our website. It has been downloaded 703 times.

“The EuroHealthNet agenda is exactly what we need right now, and I hope it will interest more and more
people, organisations and countries.”

Andrew Fraser (Senior Adviser, Public Health Scotland)

Working on the actions and policies that work against chronic diseases: Joint Action CHRODIS PLUS

EuroHealthNet is a partner in the EU Joint Action on Chronic Diseases, ‘CHRODIS PLUS’. The action focuses on the implementation of policies and practices that have been demonstrated to be successful to reduce the burden of chronic diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need to address these diseases into sharp focus, as those with pre-existing chronic illnesses seem to suffer more than others.

EuroHealthNet’s work in Joint Action CHRODIS Plus covers two work packages:

  • We lead work on health promotion and disease prevention in close cooperation with our member, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL);
  • We lead a series of policy dialogues done by partners from eight countries with an ambition to improve existing policies.

Frameworks for transferring good practices: what works

CHRODIS-PLUS developed a framework to support the international transfer of health promotion interventions for children’s health and older adults. EuroHealthNet, along with our member, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), published a scientific article on the findings resulting from the use of the implementation framework.

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    The paper explores the contextual success factors and barriers in the use of an implementation framework in local contexts, and the protocol for supporting the implementation. It concludes by discussing the key learning points and the development of the next steps for successful transfer of health promotion interventions.

    Read the article

    Initial recommendations from our experiences supporting the transfer of good practices:

    Embed a good practice within existing structures and resources.

     

    This involves recognising the existing structures and local resources where the good practice is to be implemented. Frequently, relevant organisational networks and experienced staff already exist and are in place.

    Be engaged throughout the process of preparing for transfer and implementation of a good practice.

     

    It is essential to have a clear, universal framework for transfer and adoption. This must include tools to scope and analyse the current situation as well as a methodology to implement, report, and evaluate. This is a key recommendation from the CHRODIS PLUS Work Package on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention – the implementation framework works. In addition, it is imperative to develop an action plan of key activities and to plan carefully how the support of the implementation will be organised during the implementation period. Recognise the specific characteristics of each local context where the good practice is implemented.

Policy dialogues

The purpose of the CHRODIS PLUS policy dialogues is for senior policy makers to meet and identify policies or changes to existing policies that can tackle major risk factors and strengthen health promotion and prevention programmes. We have organised National and European Policy Dialogues which have helped to elaborate national action plans for improved prevention and management of chronic diseases.

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    We helped to organise, attended and reported on national policy dialogues on:

    • Health Impact Assessments at national level Spain, 10 June 2019
    • Access to safe drinking water in public places Malta, 3 September 2019
    • Collaborative approach in Control and Prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders Slovakia, 29 October 2019
    • Innovation and strategies for chronicity: building alliances to overcome barriers Italy, 27 November 2019,
    • The importance of a multisectoral approach in reducing the burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases Croatia, 17 December 2019
    • Promoting walking and cycling before, during and after work Netherlands, 22 January 2020
    • Integrated care in tackling chronic diseases Slovenia 30 January 2020
    • The role of AI and BI solutions in the decision support of national screening programs Hungary, 18 February 2020

    EuroHealthNet also chaired the EU level Policy Dialogue on Employment and Chronic Diseases, organised by the Foundation of Carlo Besta Neurological Institute in Italy, which took place in November 2019 at the European Parliament. The meeting identified the practical steps for EU policy to support employment for people with chronic diseases and to address the impact of chronic diseases in the employment sector. More information about the meeting is available online.

    In autumn 2020, EuroHealthNet will gather the learnings from all the policy dialogues and will present the results in the publication and during the final conference of the Joint Action, which should take place in October 2020.

Joint Action on Health Equity

The Joint Action on Health Equity in Europe (JAHEE) is a partnership of over 25 countries that came together with the goal to achieve greater equity in health outcomes across all groups in society. It aims to unify the diverse approaches taken by different countries

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EuroHealthNet is collaborating with JAHEE by contributing to their Policy and Communication activities. EuroHealthNet provides strategic advice to the JAHEE coordinators for work on Coordination, Communication, and Integration and Sustainability. We focus on promoting the results of the action to policy makers.  Together, we organised a policy dialogue at an informal meeting during the conference ‘Health Equity – Accelerating Progress Towards Healthy and Prosperous Lives for all in the WHO European Region’ (June 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia) and produced a policy brief on all EU policy related initiatives on health inequalities since 2009. We have also actively participated to the workshops organised at the general assembly in October 2019 in Rome, Italy, and assisted in the stakeholder mapping exercise, the development of internal reports, and producing newsletters.

JAHEE plenary meeting, October 2019
JAHEE plenary meeting, October 2019

“It has never been more important to pool knowledge, good practices, proposals, and solutions. EuroHealthNet is working to tackle the ‘new normal’ reducing inequalities and protecting the most vulnerable.”

Dr Paolo Stocco (Board Member of the National Executive Committee of Federsanità ANCI, Italy)

Paolo Stocco

Vaccination to protect all

The European Joint Action on Vaccination (EU-JAV) five core aims: to more accurately monitor vaccination coverage, to ensure that everyone in the European Union has access to vaccination, to improve forecasting of vaccine stocks and systems for prevention of shortages, to set priorities for vaccine research and development, and to enhance public confidence in vaccination. It brings together 20 partners (including 6 EuroHealthNet members) in 17 Member States.

EuroHealthNet signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the consortium in 2018 to collaborate as part of the EU-JAV Stakeholders Forum. In October 2019, EuroHealthNet participated in the Annual Meeting in Rome.

EuroHealthNet also participated in the Global Vaccine Summit in September 2019, co-organised by the European Commission and the World Health Organisation. EuroHealthNet was represented at the EU-JAV table, from which it disseminated its recently-updated Childhood, health inequalities, and vaccine-preventable diseases factsheet.

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