RHN 15th annual conference. Health and wealth, regional perspectives

27 November 2007, Düsseldorf, Germany

The 2007 Regions for Health Network (RHN) Annual Conference represented a happy anniversary. After 15 years of successful work, the network returned home – to Düsseldorf – where, in 1992, the founding documents were signed and an ambitious effort was launched to bring European regions together.

Fifteen years later, the WHO Regions for Health Network face the challenge of a larger Europe striving for political and economical integration and looking for new transnational solutions in health care and health system development.

The 2007 Annual Conference contributed to this by providing insight into new international trends – especially in the regional health economy. There was a special focus on 'regional health and wealth'. The conference considered Ten Theses on the regional added value of 'health and wealth', the ways in which healthy people are good for the economy, including in industrial regions, and how the concept of health and wealth was interpreted in the host region – North Rhine Westphalia.

The conference also included practical projects and studies concerned with the health economy and health systems at the regional level. There were presentations on five related topics: two projects – an English project on information technology in the National Health Service and the Europe-wide HealthClusterNET, on governance performance of regional health systems and on human resources for health policies, and on ways to steer in decentralized health systems. Working group sessions discussed issues arising out of each of these five topics.

A summary of the Ten Theses was presented at the RHN Ministerial Forum, held immediately afterwards, for adoption and signature. The Conference included an exhibition and presentation to celebrate the Network's 15th anniversary.

The conference contributed successfully to the formulation of an important and promising policy proposal (health and wealth), which will be further developed within the WHO, EU, national and regional contexts, and offered the opportunity for in-depth discussion of various aspects of regional health policy more generally.