Representatives of public health bodies from eight EU Member States met this week to discuss the new Health Equity and Public Health Act which has recently been introduced in Germany. The aim of the act is to reduce health inequalities, to improve coordination between bodies which can promote and enable good health, and to reduce health risks and support self-determined good health.
The exchange visit was organised by EuroHealthNet (the European Partnership for Improving Health, Equity, and Wellbeing) and BZgA (The German Federal Centre for Health Education) to help other agencies examine what they can gain from the German experience, and how EU processes and instruments can support health equity at national and local levels.
What is the German Prevention Act?
The prevention act, introduced by the German Federal Ministry of Health in 2015, is innovative as it includes stakeholders from both within and outside the health sector. Together, they must agree on a joint national prevention strategy: the Federal Framework Recommendations (Bundesrahmenempfehlungen). The recommendations state that all initiatives implemented under the new law should contribute to reducing health inequalities, and that setting-based health promotion at municipal and local levels are the best way to implement action. Settings such as child day-care facilities, schools, local authorities, workplaces and long-term care facilities are therefore key.
The elements of the act include (i) a national prevention conference which includes health and social insurance bodies, the 16 states, and other relevant actors, (ii) A national prevention strategy and Federal Framework recommendations, and (iii) a prevention report which documents and evaluates results every four years. It requires health insurance funds to invest in and support health promotion initiatives, with a focus on health inequalities in settings at municipal level.
Country Exchange Visit
EuroHealthNet regularly organises Country Exchange Visits which are co-funded under the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Programme of the European Commission to stimulate exchange on best practices and policies on core themes and to examine the role of EU action in national and regional outcomes. The visit was hosted by BZgA, the agency of the Federal Ministry of Health responsible for health education, which supports health insurance funds in establishing the most effective ways to implement the Prevention Act.
Participants in the Exchange Visit from Latvia, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece, Poland, UK, and Sweden also heard about the German ‘Equity in Health Network’ and visited a number of initiatives benefiting from the Prevention Act, which aim to improve health equity and wellbeing. These included an SOS family centre, a group giving disadvantaged families access to gardens, and an initiative which uses ‘neighbourhood mothers’ as a ‘door opener’ for early childhood intervention and work with migrants.
“EuroHealthNet’s key objective is to use all EU instruments available to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens and to reduce inequalities within and between Member States. The EaSI programme adds tremendous value to mobilising and inspiring agencies and organisations for social and health goals. The next Country Exchange Visits will examine the Swedish approach to suicide prevention and mental health promotion, in November, and the Greek approach to address health of migrants, in December” concluded Caroline Costongs, Director EuroHealthNet