10th European Public Health Conference: subnational actors and small states come together to promote resilient and healthy communities
A series of workshops organized by the WHO Regions for Health Network (RHN) during the 10th European Public Health Conference, “Sustaining resilient and healthy communities”, Stockholm, Sweden, 1–4 November 2017, provided actors from the subnational level and small countries a platform for addressing current health affairs from their unique perspectives. Topics, such as integration-for-health systems, transformative health promotion and gender stereotypes, the Sustainable Development Goals and urban environments, were tackled in the light of the challenges and opportunities specific to subnational actors and small states.
Those taking part in the Conference also had the opportunity to attend a preconference event organized by the Small States and Health Consortium, which comprises university departments with expertise in small states and European public health, a public health institute and a non-profit think tank with members from Estonia, Iceland, Malta, The Netherlands and Slovenia.
“Transformative health promotion: why gender stereotypes and culture matter”
This RHN workshop was organized in the context of the “Strategy for women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region”, endorsed at the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in 2016 by all 53 Member States. Piroska Ostlin, Director of the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being, WHO Regional Office for Europe, chaired the workshop, which focused on priorities and key areas related to tackling discriminatory values and gender stereotypes in health. She also presented the draft WHO European strategy on men’s health and well-being that is expected to be finalized in 2018. Evidence reviews and culture-centred approaches developed by WHO/Europe were presented, as well as promising practice and initiatives at the subnational and small-countries levels, including Andalusia, Spain, Canton Ticino, Switzerland, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, San Marino, and Västra Götaland, Sweden.
“The sustainability agenda: action required to maximize impact across countries and regions”
Organized by WHO and chaired by Piroska Ostlin, Director of the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being, WHO Regional Office for Europe, the event brought together WHO experts and RHN members to demonstrate the links between global, European, national and subnational contexts and policy agendas for sustainable development and health. Bettina Menne, Coordinator, Health and Development (SDG), WHO Regional Office for Europe, presented the “WHO European roadmap to implement the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, building on Health 2030, the European policy for health and well-being”, as well as global progress to date. Natasha Muscat, President-Elect of the European Public Health Association, and representatives of the Swedish Delegation for implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the city of Murska Sobota, Slovenia, and the region of Wales, United Kingdom, presented their experiences in this area. The latest RHN publication, “Sustainable development in Wales and other regions in Europe – achieving health and equity for present and future generations”, was released during the workshop.
“Urban environments: action for health and equity”
Developed jointly by the Healthy Cities Network and RHN, this workshop presented the main challenges to local action for resilient and healthy communities, providing an overview of the most relevant environment and health issues to be tackled by European cities and regions and presenting ways of doing so, for example, by showcasing selected practical experience. The workshop, which was chaired by Francesco Zambon, Coordinator, Investment for Health and Development in Healthy Settings, WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development, Venice, Italy, of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, included presentations by Matthias Braubach, Technical Officer, European Centre for Environment and Health, WHO Regional Office for Europe, and Mariana Dyakova, Deputy Director (international lead) for Policy, Research and International Development Directorate, Public Health Wales, Cardiff, United Kingdom, and roundtable discussions involving representatives of the Centre for Health and Development in Murska Sobota, Slovenia; the Healthy Cities Scientific Committee; the Flanders Institute for Technological Development, Belgium; Region Västra Götaland, Sweden, as well as the Technical University of Istanbul, Turkey.
All 3 RHN workshops were very well attended and led to agreement to:
- conduct a follow-up workshop on gender stereotypes in Canton Ticino, Switzerland, in 2018, during which the draft WHO European strategy on men’s health and well-being will be discussed;
- prepare for a plenary session on SDG implementation at the 11th European Public Health Conference to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on 28 November–1 December 2018;
- hold a series of focused webinar discussions on tools and approaches, which have been developed in the area of environment and health to facilitate their uptake and dissemination at the subnational and small-countries levels.
The examples brought by the WHO RHN and small-countries networks highlight the need to develop strategic alliances for working together to give voice to subnational actors and small countries in the light of their challenges to and opportunities ensuring for a more sustainable and equitable future.
“Opportunities and challenges arising from European Integration for health systems in small states”
This preconference event, organized by the Small States and Health Consortium, focused on findings regarding access to medicines, workforce mobility, cancer and the treatment of rare diseases in small countries. Francesco Zambon, Coordinator, Investment for Health and Development in Healthy Settings, WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development, presented the WHO Small Countries Initiative as a platform for exchange and the promotion of integration and innovation, and panellists from Malta, Montenegro and San Marino contributed with their experiences and reflections.
About the WHO Regions for Health Network and Small Countries Initiatives
The WHO Regions for Health Network, established in 1993, aims to:
- create synergy between regions and stakeholders in the field of health (mutual learning);
- strengthen cooperation/collaboration between regional and local actors and the international institutions in health;
- promote the contributions of regions and local authorities, particularly health authorities, to the international policy-making process; and
- increase understanding of regional and local health systems (exchange of experiences).
WHO established the small countries initiative so that countries in the WHO European Region with populations of less than one million people can share their knowledge and experience. The eight members of the initiative are: