WHO networks – call for closer collaboration

The WHO European Regions for Health Network (RHN) and the WHO European Healthy Cities Network are two longstanding WHO networks. They are built on the same health-for-all principles and values of improving health and well-being for all citizens in Europe and are committed to delivering the WHO Health 2020 strategic goals and framework.  

The session, ‘The 4Cs of RHN & Healthy Cities: complimentary, coherence, collaboration and coordination’, was held at the 23rd annual meeting of Regions for Health Network, 22–23 September 2016, in Kaunas, Lithuania. It explored how closer collaboration could achieve greater solidarity and enhanced delivery, innovation and learning across Europe in implementing Health 2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals, to improve health and health equity for European citizens.

Collaboration between the networks was encouraged by Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab in her opening speech at the RHN meeting and the message was reinforced by Dr Piroska Ostlin, who has the responsibility for both Healthy Cities and RHN within her division.  

The discussion focused on the added value of each network but also on the potential strengthening of jointly working together, for example the ability to influence national policies; linking with other WHO initiatives, e.g. health promoting schools, with the overall aim of having greater impact in improving the health of the citizen at the local level.

It was agreed that in the beginning collaboration between  networks could take the form of a joint publication or  establishing a joint group to develop tools at a regional/local level that are currently developed at national level, eg. a gender tool.  It was also made clear that although closer collaboration has not been raised by the cities, a session will be held at the forthcoming Healthy Cities Conference in Pécs, Hungary in March 2017, to explore more concretely how collaboration can be further defined.

Elisabeth Bengtsson, Västra Götaland Region, Sweden, chaired the session and inputs were provided by Joan Devlin, WHO Healthy Cities Belfast Secretariat, representing the WHO Healthy Cities Network, and Francesco Zambon, focal point for the Regions for Health network.