July 18, 2024

Healt Hid

Because health is very important to us

Regions play a key role in tackling current health crises

3 min read

Cross-border cooperation, digital health, and value-based health care were 3 of the topics that kicked off the first day of the 27th meeting of the Regions for Health Network (RHN) in Brussels, Belgium. During the meeting, regions and partners discussed
local and regional governance for better health and well-being and how to future-proof resilient and connected health systems in a rapidly changing international context.

In opening the meeting, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, noted, “Today, we are living in a state of constant threats – a kind of permacrisis, as some have coined it,” adding that “building resilience and learning from practice” should be the core concern during the 3-day event. 

This RHN meeting, the first to be held in-person since 2019, was attended by 150 people and marked the RHN’s 30th anniversary. The conference was hosted by the European Committee of the Regions.

A local perspective

As part of the broader RHN meeting, a joint conference of the European Regional and Local Health Authorities (EUREGHA) and RHN aimed to provide participants with an understanding of policy-making processes and trends, which exist at the European Union
(EU) level, while highlighting best practices relevant to subnational authorities.

Highlights included a presentation on the findings of the evaluation of the EU Cross-Border Healthcare Directive (Directive 2011/24/EU), 10 years after its adoption, and the role of regions in shaping the future of the European Health and Data Space project. 

In addition, the importance of networks in bringing about knowledge exchange within the broader context of the draft ‘Regional digital health action plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030’ was a key issue. Public institutions
at the subnational level would like their perspectives on health and social care to be taken into consideration during the development of this ambitious European Health Union project.

Ensuring healthier populations

The second part of the RHN meeting was hosted by the Flanders Region, a long-standing member of the RHN. All sessions in this second part involved presenting regional examples of effective strategies that were developed to strengthen health systems,
create healthier populations, and enhance well-being, including lessons learned in the process. 

Topics discussed in this second part included long-term care, mental health with a focus on the community-based approach, and the need to assure a fit-for-purpose health workforce for both today and the future. The main concerns for the future related to the financial sustainability of health and social services, which need to be supported by a trained health workforce.

In discussing how to ensure healthier populations, the participants considered ways of better mobilizing behavioural and cultural insights; adapting to climate change, and the co-benefits of mitigation; and addressing the health and social needs of
an ageing population through caring-neighbourhoods and integrated-care models. 

With respect to governance, the regions agreed that:

  1. intersectoral work was crucial to achieving meaningful advances in health promotion; 
  2. there was a need to focus on people’s well-being, for which support from the economic and financial sectors was required; and 
  3. the recent publication of the ‘Roadmap towards better health in small countries in the WHO European Region, 2022–2025’ could also inspire RHN activities and thematic areas. 

Outcomes and next steps

The discussions and outcomes of the 27th annual meeting of the RHN were tangible proof of the importance of having a platform for the exchange of ideas and good practice; in other words, a community in which to nurture dialogue on health and social
care that emphasizes the leading role regions play in the promotion of healthy societies.

The regions expressed their expectation that the RHN would increase efforts to exchange best practice among its members, engage policy-makers and youth more actively, and identify new opportunities for collaboration on specific technical topics, supporting Health-in-All Policies approaches and interdisciplinary collaboration. The RHN Secretariat will take these challenges forward through a range of networking and collaborative events in 2023. 

The Andalusia Region, Spain, kindly offered to hold the 28th annual meeting of the RHN in Seville during the second half of 2023.



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