Health Promotion and primary care, by Clive Needle, EuroHealthNet's Policy and Advocacy Director

25 July 2014

EU ministers of health recently considered impacts of the financial, economic and social crises that have crashed across Europe in the past seven years. Among their important views which EuroHealthNet is keen to support are some direct recommendations for all national and regional health systems:

  • Continue improving further access for all to high quality healthcare services paying particular attention to the most vulnerable groups;
  • Strengthen further health promotion and disease prevention policies and strategies aiming at improving people’s health thereby reducing the need for curative care;
  • Consider innovative ways of integration between primary and hospital care, and between health and social care;
  • Promote the implementation of ICT innovations and eHealth solutions to ensure quality of care and Health literacy, and improve efficiency and effectiveness of health systems and control of expenditures;

See here

The European commission operates and uses a myriad of advisory bodies to gain informed views before it takes legislative, regulatory or funding measures. One such body, set up in 2013, comprises senior health experts, most well-known to us at EuroHealthNet, in a Panel which advises on evidence for investments in health. Their latest opinion, reached after an open consultation, concerns primary care. This is their considered definition:

The Expert Panel on effective ways of investing in Health (EXPH), considers primary care to be the provision of universally accessible, integrated, person-centred,  comprehensive health and community services, provided by a team of professionals accountable for addressing a large majority of personal health needs. These services are delivered in a sustained partnership with patients and informal care givers, in the context of family and community and play a central role in the overall coordination and continuity of people's care.

They go on to look at referral systems and financing measures, with many important conclusions about practices, variations, strengths and inequalities in systems across Europe. You can read this plus information about the panel composition and remit at:

EuroHealthNet studied the provisional opinion carefully and decided to support it, which was apparently the widely held view among those who responded. Clearly the panel is doing a good job so far and can contribute to better decision making at EU and national levels.

EuroHealthNet wants to play its part. We have entered into a collaboration agreement with the European Forum for Primary Care (EFPC) so we can learn from each other and work better together. We will seek to take this forward practically and innovatively by participating at a workshop at the EFPC conference in Barcelona in September (see here)

There we will discuss developments on health and social investment at EU level including on the Council Conclusions urging innovative ways of integration, the Panel recognition of the importance of integrated approaches and responding to the wider EC Communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems (see here).

We believe the interface between community health promotion, care and integrated multi sectoral approaches is crucial in tackling societal needs amid demographic, social and technological changes. But what do you think?

  • Do you know good examples of how promotion, prevention and care services can be well integrated?
  • What are the crucial steps that can be taken to improve both primary care and health promotion, and what support is needed?
  • Do you know other national or local authorities or bodies working in these fields in Europe with whom we could also build partnerships?

We look forward to your responses via these discussion channels, or if you prefer contact our PHASE teams directly.