New phase for regions for health

Karin Grönberg

Representatives of the Regions for Health Network discuss Health 2020, actions for health equity and the development of regional know-how

The Regions for Health Network, supported by WHO, brings together subnational regions from across the WHO European Region to exchange promising practices and know-how, and develop synergies to promote health and reduce inequities. Active for the past 20 years, the Network is entering a new phase, committed to generating new evidence to implement Health 2020, the European policy for health and well-being.

Some 400 representatives from the regions met in Göteborg, Sweden, on 6 November 2012, to discuss how to integrate the strategic objectives of Health 2020 – stronger equity and better governance for health – into the Network’s work plan for the next five years. The vision of this work plan is set down in the Göteborg Manifesto, agreed by Network members.

In a video address given at the meeting, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe explained the importance of the Network, “Strengthened by past achievements the Network is ready to move forward with new commitments and a strong programme of work to develop know-how; to exchange effective practices for promoting health and reducing health inequities; to build strategic delivery alliances; and to advocate and implement action that improves the health of Europeans.”

Regions in Europe

Regions in Europe – the Autonomias, Cantons, Landers, Regioni – are the first level of policy-making under national level, and as such have significant political and administrative functions in areas vital to health, including the environment, housing, food, health care, transport and education. They hold a unique position, translating national policies into services delivered at local level. This also enables them to engage a broad range of partners interested in health from the private and not-for-profit sectors, civil society and citizens’ groups.

Furthermore, greater mobility across national borders has increased the need for sub-national regions to collaborate more closely. In Europe, millions of people live within 80km of their national border, and cooperation in health services and planning human resources between regions in border areas is on the rise.