“Health is a political choice” - 17th European Health Forum Gastein

The European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) held its 17th annual conference on 1–3 October in Gastein, Austria, with strong participation from WHO/Europe.

This year’s conference focused on reinforcing the crucial values underpinning the health sector and health-related policy, of particular importance given this year’s European Parliament elections, and new European Commission President and commissioners.

WHO/Europe’s Director for the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-Being, Dr Agis Tsouros, gave a welcome address and led a high-level debate in the early stages of the conference, explaining that “Health is a political choice.”

“As we have learned from the past, it is important to reach out and find new ways to involve different government sectors and engage with civil society” said Dr. Tsouros.

“Emerging issues go beyond health and include population ageing, migration, vulnerable groups. We must bring together an integrated approach that will enable changes not possible in the past. Now is the “time to act,” he said.

WHO/Europe experts from various backgrounds and health-related fields to led and facilitated discussions during conference sessions and workshops.  

Workshop on the future of public health

Monika Kosinska, Programme Manager for Governance for Health at WHO/Europe participated in a panel workshop on the future of public health. The panel provided four scenarios epitomizing “the holy grail” of health, which included keeping people healthy; supporting vulnerable peoples; promoting individual autonomy; and keeping healthcare affordable.  

In relation to this, Kosinska explained to the audience, “[These scenarios] imply a huge amount of change. I think this is a wonderful way for us to look at what we are trying to achieve and articulate all the time.”

About EHFG 2014

The EHFG is a leading health-related event in the European Union and a meeting point for experts from different fields within the health system.  It brought together politicians, cross-sectoral government members, decision makers, health experts, civil society representatives, industry, and young people who will make up the next generation of health leadership to discuss and debate the future of European citizens’ health.

The event recognized 2014 as a critical year for European politics and health policy, and called for politicians and stakeholders to champion smart, sustainable and inclusive policies.

Session topics during the forum included:

  • Public Health Leadership;
  • Building EU health policy for the future;
  • Care coordination and patient choice;
  • Personalized medicine 2020
  • From MDGs to the post-2015 agenda;
  • Moving for health and well-being;
  • Deploying eHealth; and
  • Health system performance.

The three-day conference culminated with a high-level debate on providing health leadership for the next five years.