One of the roles of EuroHealthNet is to facilitate exchanges of learning, sharing knowledge for improvements on the ground and providing added value from EU programmes. Two study visits are organised annually, hosted by a member so experience is gained of the diversity of approaches across Europe. Each comprise 10-15 members and partners according to demand, plus expert and logistic support. The approach is informal to stimulate discussion, but incorporates strong learning and evaluation tools to ensure results and follow up actions. These events are co-funded between the EuroHealthNet membership and the EU Programme for Employment and Social Investment, which helps us to bridge social, health and economic determinants of wellbeing and inclusion.
The two visits in 2014 contrasted learning and practice in the north and south of the EU. The first in Helsinki, Finland, was hosted by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and studied how advocating for cross sectoral work can apply to tackle inequities, particularly for employment issues related to health. The second event took place in Florence, Italy, hosted by the Tuscany Region, and followed up previous studies of healthy ageing by looking at rapidly developing paradigms in active ageing, social investment approaches, long term care and age friendly environments.
In Helsinki, a visit to the major national research establishment THL provided valuable insights into policies and practices there to identify and tackle health inequalities. It also provided a useful opportunity to meet with THL experts and leaders, including Director Juhani Eskola, and discuss government changes following national elections. Linking national to international perspectives, Linden Farrer from EuroHealthNet was able to present outcomes of its work leading the EU co-funded research study on social determinants of health, DRIVERS, featuring research on early child development, social protection and key factors in work and worklessness. Learners benefited from practical examples from the Blackburn with Darwen Council district of England, including important messages on implementing cross sectoral approaches in local governments. Course facilitator Clive Needle shared experiences and learning from two decades of working with EU institutions on policy and advocacy.
The second half of the visit was a rare opportunity to see and engage with a governmental body putting such approaches into action. The Finnish Health in All Policies Advisory Board for Public Health brings together policy makers and experts from several relevant sectors to provide structures for intersectoral co-operation. This approach has been widely recognised since the 2005 Finnish Presidency of the EU stimulated Council conclusions on health in all policies and much work by WHO, the EU and national governments. Therefore EuroHealthNet members found it stimulating to meet and discuss with not only officials from the Ministry for Health and Social Welfare, but also employment and social services and occupational health bodies. This was clearly relevant to national and EU priorities for sustainable, inclusive and smart growth, and for work towards the Social Investment Package of the EU towards employment, anti-poverty and social goals as well as members’ work on health and wellbeing. The enthusiasm and active, knowledgeable contributions of participants was notable in the evaluated responses, and will be followed up within the DRIVERS concluding activities and several aspects of our core work.
We were delighted that our former President David Pattison kindly agreed to facilitate the Florence studies also carried out during October, just as we were pleased that a relatively new addition to our membership, Tuscany Region, was so keen to contribute already by showcasing its work so well. Our Health & Ageing Coordinator Karoline Noworyta was also able to link her work on not only the EaSI programme but also on the EU co-funded projects for health literacy for older people (IROHLA) and on age friendly environments (AFE-INNOVET) with the EU Innovation Partnership for Active Ageing (EIP-AHA), each of which was presented and discussed in Florence.
Just as jobs and growth are high on agendas from local to EU levels, so is addressing demographic changes and the needs and assets of older populations. A major benefit was to provide an opportunity for each participant to present their particular perspectives, from needs to innovations. These can now be captured and taken up within the context of the renewed Healthy Ageing technical working group, which has been agreed by the EuroHealthNet Executive Board following its review of the evaluations of the study visits. This will also feed new knowledge and evidence into our healthy ageing website as it is updated into 2015. The need to publicise the rapidly growing wealth of online resources such as repositories and good practice hubs available from the European Commission and World Health Organisation was an important learning point.
A welcome focus was on ageing as an opportunity and asset showing how older people can benefit communities, involving specific examples in health and care sectors through visits in Tuscany.
The two 2014 study visits not only offered direct membership benefits for over twenty of our participants, but provided valuable links and insights to priority policy, practice and programme issues at EU and other levels, all of which are being taken forward and linked within our Business Plan and work programme. We thank all organisers and particularly our two excellent hosts.
- Linden Farrer is our CIRI Co-ordinator and has been particularly working on completing the DRIVERS project, linking it with advocacy for action on social determinants of health plus our evaluation services. Contact and link to CIRI pages here
- Karoline Noworyta is our Health and Ageing Co-ordinator and works in liaison with our PHASE and HPE teams on public health and active ageing topics. Contact and link to PHASE here
- For more information on EuroHealthNet study visits, click here