Future minds for Eur health

“I never think of the future –
It comes soon enough.”
Albert Einstein

Health in 2050 – a dream, a vision, a reality… When young creative minds get together – dreams are shaped into a vision; when they are supported with resources and political will –a vision is turned into reality.
Shaping Health in 2050 has already started, engaging young European researchers and policy makers in the Digital Futures Workshops and Futurium website. On 5th of September 2013, 14 enthusiastic Young Forum Gasteiners shared their knowledge, perspectives and ideas, drafting potential health scenarios of the future.
Innovation, reflection, discussion, insight – the ordinary meeting room turned into a creative lab. Facilitated by the organisers from DG CONNECT, DG SANCO and the International Forum Gastein, the futurists agreed on four proposals to be developed further at the Dragons Den workshop during the European Health Forum Gastein 2013.
These ideas consisted of the following:
1) An interactive and real-time updating health savings account that would encourage people to undertake preventive health activities or risk higher health insurance premiums;
2) DIY Healthcare, envisioning a world with high levels of health literacy where people have the ability to self diagnose and treat their own ailments;
3) Creating a European-wide database containing medical and other health records that researchers could use to evaluate treatments, track infectious diseases and for other research purposes;
4) The idea of using a 3D stem cell printer to manufacture new human body organs, particularly the heart.

A further two ideas were chosen to be taken forward to the Dragons Den Panel at the EHFG. These were “one touch health

cards”, where individuals as well as health providers have access to all their health records and can use them in any health setting, and finally EU wide implementation of smart diagnostics which enhance “personal health clouds” with real time diagnostic data from an individual´s smart phone. State of the art SAW (surface acoustic wave) sensors and NFC (near-field communication) technology will make this possible.

Some of these ideas may sound ethically dubious, completely unrealistic or fraught with all kinds of problems, but they are all grounded in real innovations and ideas at least in part likely to become a future reality.
After further development and refinement, the successful ideas will be drafted into recommendations for the Futurium output document, which will be presented to the new European Commissioner for Communications Networks, Content & Technology in 2014.
The future of 2050 has already started! The technology landscape is changing faster than ever, pushing opportunities for health to their limits. Are we ready for it?!

Further information can be found at: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/futurium/en and
Mariana Dyakova, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Public Health at University of Warwick/Public Health England, UK
Louise Boyle, Project Manager, International Forum Gastein

Inauguration of the Seat of the South-eastern European Health Network

Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 6-7 March 2013

The South-eastern European Health Network (SEEHN) is a regional initiative to improve public health. Founded in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2001, it serves both as a political forum where health ministers and senior officials from the Member States of the initiative can meet, as well as operating at a technical level with workshops focussed on technical activities and building regional cooperation on public health projects and sharing information, contacts and ideas through a formal network.

The European Health Forum Gastein signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South-eastern European Health Network in Brussels in March 2012. The aim of the cooperation is to exchange information, lessons learned and best practice on mutually selected subjects through participation in meetings, conferences and symposia, and through joint work on the development or implementation of projects.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the inauguration of the seat of the SEEHN secretariat in Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Having just taken on responsibility for our cooperation with the SEEHN, this was a great opportunity for me to find out more about the region, the network and its activities, make new contacts and assess how we could take concrete steps to develop our cooperation.

After a welcome reception the previous evening, the day began with a visit to the new seat of the SEEHN Secretariat in Skopje city centre. The establishment of this seat marks an exciting period of transition for the network towards full ownership of the regional process for cooperation on health in the region. The group was then taken to the National Museum where we were given a tour providing an interesting insight into the eventful history of Macedonia and its relationship with other countries in the region.

Inauguration speeches were given by WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab; Minister of Health for Macedonia Nikola Todorov; Assistant Minister of Health for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Chair of the SEEHN Executive Committee Dr. Goran Cerkez, and His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova Mr Alexander Prigorschi.

After a buffet lunch, Minister Todorov and Mrs Jakab presided over a round table meeting focussed on Health in all Policies, which had also been the subject of some of Mrs Jakab´s meetings earlier that afternoon with the President and Prime Minister of Macedonia. The Regional Director for Europe praised the SEEHN highly as a great “health diplomacy initiative” and said she thought the network had a unique future and place in terms of advancing health in Europe. There was widespread backing from organisations and ministries around the table for developing and supporting the activities of the network further, with some pledging to undertake specific health activities in the region. In terms of the support that the EHFG will offer, as a first step we hope to support a number of representatives from the SEEHN to attend the EHFG 2013, either as regular delegates or as young policymakers/researchers under the auspices of the Young Gastein initiative. We look forward to deepening our cooperation with the network this year and helping to promote its activities to improve health in the South-eastern European region.

For more information please see:

by Louise Boyle, Policy Officer for the European Health Forum Gastein

International Day of Families

Today is Family Day, all over the world workshops, seminars, policy meetings, exhibitions and events to raise awareness of the importance of families are being organized. This year’s theme is: “Ensuring work family balance.”

This year’s International Day of Families highlights the need for work-family balance. The aim is to help workers everywhere provide for their families financially and emotionally, while also contributing to the socio-economic development of their societies.” United Nations (UN), Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In 1993 a UN resolution was adopted to reflect the importance of families and securing their status within the international community. 1994 the United Nations declared the International Year of Families, due to the changing social and economical structures having an impact on family structures and units, leading to the increasing need of raising awareness of family related issues. Since 1995, 15th of May is marked as Family Day.

This year’s theme addresses the social and economical structural changes, impacting families. Worldwide, the demographic transition is leading to smaller families, lower birth rates and an ageing population. More women are participating in the labour market, urbanization is growing and people tend to move from their homes due to labour, thus impacting family structures and splitting them up. Children are often left behind in the care of their grandparents, however with increasing age they often required care themselves, putting a double burden on parents having to take care of their children and parents and the same time.

Within Europe, we are fortunate to have access to childcare in form of day-care or kindergartens and older people requiring intensive care can move into retirement or nursing homes. However, in developing countries affordable quality child or elderly care is often not available. Forcing children to leave school and having to take care of their young siblings and grandparents.

Maternity leaves, home office or flexible working schedules can have a positive effect on work – family balance but still needs to increase on a global level.

Ban Ki- moon states in his message that: policies and programs are critical to enhancing the work-family balance.  These actions can also lead to better working conditions, greater employee health and productivity, and a more concerted focus on gender equality.

Let us bring families in to the spotlights and raise awareness for work-family balance, benefiting each global citizen and societies at large.

European Patient’s Rights Day

Today marks the 6th European Patients’ Rights Day and this years theme is: “Active Ageing citizens at the center of EU health policy”. Active Citizens Network  is organizing events on 15th and 16th of May in Brussels to bring attention to active ageing of European citizens.

Due to demographic transition the number of citizens above 65 is rapidly increasing. According to WHO Europe, median age of Europeans is already the highest in the world, and the proportion of people aged 65 and older is forecast to increase from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2050. If you want to find out how the demographic transition developed during the last 50 years, watch this video.

With increasing age, people are at high risk of chronic diseases, mental illness and require more health care. However, they should not be seen as burden to the health care system and society due to their increasing needs and care. Empowering ageing citizens, ensuring access to health related information, implementing their rights and encouraging a healthy lifestyle has a vice versa effect for the whole population.

European institutions, patient organizations, healthcare representatives and national and/or regional health care departments should come together and discuss: How ageing patients can actively be involved, exchange of knowledge and best practices and how rights of ageing people can be secured.

Having access to health information, care and treatment is a right that should be secured at every stage of life.

Growing stronger together

Today, we celebrate EUROPE day. On 9th of May 1950, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, read a declaration in front of international press, calling France, Germany and other European countries to pool their coal and steel production together.
His proposal was to create a supranational European Institution managing the coal and steel industry, leading to the creation of the European Coal and Steel community, forming the grounding stones of what we now know to be the European Union (EU). Founding members of the EU were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1957 the European Economic Community was created through the Treaty of Rome. On 1st January 1973 the EU is enlarged by Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom and in 1979 citizens can vote for the first time for members of the European Parliament. Did you know that Greece was the 10th member of the EU and is already part of it since 1981?

1986 marks a special and exciting year in the history of Europe, Spain and Portugal become member states and the Single European Act is signed, allowing free flow of trade across the EU. In 1993 the act is completed with the ‘four freedoms’ of: goods, movement, services, people and money and from 1995 onwards citizens of member states are allowed to travel without passports under the Schengen agreement. In 2002 the Euro was introduced and in 2004, ten new members join the EU. For more information on the history of the EU click here.

The theme of this year’s Europe Day is: Growing Stronger Together. Wise words which we should keep in mind, especially during times of economic crisis and austerity measures we should unit and not turn against each other.