Dr Antonyia Parvanova is a Bulgarian MEP and was born in the Northeast part of Bulgaria, in the city of Dobrich. This is very close to the famous city of Varna, in the coastal area of the Black Sea.
PB: Can you tell me a little about your educational background?
AP: I did a lot of investment in education and training. First, I graduated as a Medical Doctor. Then I did a second degree, because at that time it was not possible to do only a Masters degree, but I was supposed to do a Bachelor and a Masters in Health Care Management. Then I did a third degree in Public Health in Maastricht, again a Masters degree. And then I went for training in Health Policy to University College London and started a PhD programme there. The final one was again another Master degree back in Bulgaria in Health Care Administration. I also subscribed for a Law degree but after so many years in the Parliament, I realised that it would not be that beneficial to me.
PB: And what are you currently involved in professionally?
AP: At the moment, I’m a member of the European Parliament from Bulgaria and I’m sitting on the Environment Public Health and Food Safety Committee. My second committee is Internal Market and Consumer Protection. And my third committee is Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.
PB: Where were you working or studying when you were my age?
AP: I was working, studying, and taking care of my two wonderful daughters. It was a little bit hectic because at the time of your age, I had very tough exams in Health Economics, in Trade Law and Analytical Maths, all those kinds of very heavy stuff included in the first years of Management Studies. I should say it was very hard, I took maths in the first and second year of my medical studies, physics and chemistry, but at the time of the first two years in Health Care Management, I should say that I took some private lessons to catch up. This is what I was doing actually. During the day I worked as a medical doctor, in the afternoons I took good care of family matters, then during the night, I studied Maths and Economics.
PB: From yur professional point of view, what do you feel should be the primary aim of a health oriented conference such as the EHFG?
AP: My opinion of this conference and the way it is developing (I’ve been attending since 2001 or 2002, difficult to remember, but I think I’m one of the dinosaurs here!)… it is developing rapidly in a very innovative and intensive direction. Having all stakeholders together, having Young Gasteiners and young people mixing, is incredible because there is continuity, there is a link between the generations, there is a link between industry, the patients, the decision makers with public health workers, etc. This is a very good laboratory and it’s hard to imagine a more ambitious goal than what it is now, but it would be very pragmatic and useful for everybody if this conference would have a little more implementing credibility. Everything that is discussed here is wonderful but still in terms of conclusion, and this conclusion to be some kind of commitment from national government, there is a little bit of a gap. At the end of these sessions here in Gastein, we have wonderful conclusions but most important to me is when all these decision makers, politicians from executives or legislative institutions, how seriously they take the conclusions and recommendations of Gastein. They may consider it. They may learn something, which is wonderful, but to me most the important practical thing would be to implement. So far, Gastein is a laboratory of wonderful analyses and wonderful proposals. Still we have to figure out how to make politicians more confident that they can really trust these proposals, and if they implement them they will be backed up by all stakeholders, generally speaking. This is difficult because for decision makers, you can imagine especially during a crisis, it’s tough to make the decisions, it’s tough to balance, and if you have conclusions coming from such conference by all stakeholders, then you may say that your decision is evidence based. And this will save your political life.
PB: The theme of this year’s conference is “Resilient and Innovative health systems for Europe”. What, according to your point of view, should be the main ingredients of a resilient and innovative health system trying to survive or even
AP: We have a very interesting saying in Bulgaria, probably other nations have a similar one, it says that “every bad thing is bringing new developments, and it’s positive to a certain extent”. I think the crisis hit us really badly, but probably it will allow us and it’s already doing so, to reconsider our economic and social positions, and behaviour, and attitude, and connections, and commitments. What I mean is that with the economic crisis, probably we will have the opportunity to assume that even if we invest in an enlarging and growing economy, this is not necessarily having added value towards public health. Second thing is that whatever the economic growth is, the elasticity of our citizens and of our society to consume is almost extended. And thirdly is probably that we have to find a different notion of this relationship economy-consumer or citizen.
And it is the same in the medical field. Probably not in the near future, but because you asked me for a little jump ahead, let’s say in the year 2050, we will be able to realise that investing in medical services and health care services as we do so far because we tackle them as part of the economy, is not having the exact impact and the added value that is expected and especially that is expected by citizens.
And I hope that by the right investments into the reconsidered valuable priorities we will be actually able to make a shift and to reshape these priorities, and to find a solution that will actually have a better impact in terms of public health and satisfaction, citizen’s satisfaction from the health care system and from public health in general. And it is very significant, there was a graph during the previous session about the output and input in the health care system and the productivity. So you see the productivity is still going stable without significant improvement whatever the outputs and the inputs are, which are actually following the same pattern. But the productivity remains the same which means that, cynically speaking, regardless of how much money we put into this, still our system is not having a significant added value in relation to the sickness trends and also, whatever money or whatever effort, people will continue being sick.
This is something that we don’t tackle in the right way but probably if we invest in a different understanding of profound medical science which will give us answers that are not leading only to a treatment to curing diseases but also to convincing people that healthy lifestyles are better for them, and saving their healthy years is much better than expecting somebody to give some money to treat them while they are already sick. This will be a significant change and this will be a significant achievement and I hope that there is an investment that is going into this direction. Still, of course it is difficult but I see that in 2050, we will have different understanding about the ideology of diseases and also of not just treatment but curing diseases.
PB: Looking back at your life experience and career, what single lesson or message would you like to convey to Young Gasteiners and other young people (i.e. students or professionals) attending the conference?
AP: From my personal experience and through all these years of trying to accumulate knowledge and to be able to have a vision, one thing that I’m absolutely convinced of to understand what works is to listen to what people say, take their experience and knowledge, but do not hesitate to jump over at least one generation, to imagine what is and should be in the future, and try to achieve it.
Written by Young Gasteiner Paula Beltrán