Brussels 23rd February 2017
Ah it’s good to be back with these health care professionals, these passionate health enthusiasts. You know that you’re surrounded by Young Gasteiners just by the time it takes until all questions can be asked, as everybody is engaged in the discussion at hand. It’s good to be back in their company.
Let us tell you why we were at the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA). We were keen to find out more about what EPHA does and, more importantly, how they do it. Nina Renshaw, EPHA’s Secretary General, introduced the Alliance, its members and campaigns. She opened the floor to the Young Gasteiners around the table at the start, giving space for lively discussions and a stream of questions throughout the workshop.
Nina explained that EPHA is an Alliance that gathers expert organizations, NGOs and other stakeholders in the public health sphere from all around the EU and gives them a voice in specific EU influenced issues in health. EPHA also advocates for transparency and accountability in health policy making on an EU scale. Through a mix of their members, EPHA establishes a balanced view in health policy and lobbies for these on an EU and national level, in Brussels and beyond.
Advocating for health in the EU has levelled up. Member States, through the European Council, are gaining more and more importance. Health-in-all policies are the new norm and Ministers of Health, Finance and Economy are key stakeholders. The era of the European Council power has arrived. And where do they make their decisions? “Behind closed doors, fed with information from unknown springs and loaded with national interests”.
Throughout the workshop, examples were given on how EPHA tries to get their voice heard during the decision making process. Yannis Natsis, for example, spoke about the ‘Universal Access and Affordable Medicines’ campaign and presented real-life examples of EPHA’s ‘fight’ for evidence-based, accountable and transparent decision and policy making in the pharmaceutical arena. He also addressed the importance of meeting with key stakeholders, such as the industry. EPHA’s policy officer for health systems, Martyna Giedrojc, spoke about a slightly different set of challenges in European, as well as national, policies. Some more established ones like the NCDs, alcohol and tobacco, but also some more recent ones like digital health and health literacy. Topics of health data management, with safety and agreed European guidelines in the spotlight, fueled an interesting debate amongst the workshop’s participants.
Advocating health in the EU seems to be a hurdle race in which the heights, distances and routes between the hurdles keep changing. With its experts, skills and members mix, EPHA seems to be a runner to bet on in the long run for a better European public health.
This blog entry was written by the Young Gasteiners Veronique Bos, Marjolein Don and Damir Ivankovic