Region Västra Götaland – EuroHealthNet member

Logo_VastraGotalabndRegion Västra Götaland is a political organisation and within the area of public health the formal responsibility is divided between the Public Health Committee (policy mandate) and the Health and Medical Care Committees (client mandate).

Region Västra Götaland became EuroHealthNet’s member in 2014.


What are the aims of Region Västra Götaland?

As increasingly seen in recent publications from the World Health Organization and the Regions for Health Network, we are all facing the challenge of managing and achieving results through new forms of governance. We intend to network at multi-level and multi-sectorial governance.

In the midst of all this the Public Health Committee is assigned the responsibility to be the engine of regional public health work. The overall population health in the region is good, but there is a worrisome development which sees the preconditions for health being distributed unequally and growing health inequalities. Our goal is therefore to work towards a socially sustainable society with the specific aim of creating the preconditions for equitable health.

For information on our work on our action plan ‘Together towards Social Sustainability – Actions for Health Equity in Västra Götaland’, a multi-level governance exercise, please read the WHO/RHN report here.

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In Region Västra Götaland we are trying to make the best use of different kinds of health data to monitor health development within the area. We are trying to move beyond what the numbers show us and complement quantitative measures with qualitative data gathered through means other than questionnaires and forms. This cannot be merely a side event in the regional monitoring process but must also be included in the systematic reviews for the regional development.

Another real challenge concerns implementing knowledge. Sometimes it feels as if politics, theory and practice are oceans apart and the means to bridge this implementation gap is nowhere to be found. In Region Västra Götaland we are trying to connect these worlds by using the method ‘community based participatory research’, where we hope to diminish the power barriers between these domains and create mutual understanding on how we can all benefit from each other. One central aspect is to include the intended target population in all parts concerning them, not only as mere benefactors or observers, but as stakeholders with powers and resources to affect the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in implementation.

Why did you decide to become a member of EuroHealthNet?

As a regional authority we have a responsibility to create societal preconditions for people’s health, which is something we alone cannot provide. On this theme we see that we share challenges with other local and regional authorities within Europe. By exchanging experiences and know-how we are strengthened in our assignment at home. But action towards health equity requires stakeholders from all levels of society to be involved. At the EU level we have seen several initiatives focusing on the social determinants of health and we need to keep the issue on the political agenda.

Through recent collaborations within Europe we came across EuroHealthNet and view it as one of the major stakeholders in EU that focuses on equity and the social determinants of health. During early 2014 it became evident that by becoming a member of EuroHealthNet, we could be a part of the joint action towards health equity.

What is your vision, for example an ideal scenario, for public health and health promotion in the EU? How can EuroHealthNet contribute to achieve this?

We sometime feel that we have moved beyond the discussion of ‘health in all policies’, in a way a very important discussion, but on the other hand a way to make the question of health a responsibility of everyone and no one at the same time. Isn’t it time that instead of doing everything under our own flag, we take the challenges that lie ahead of us seriously and move towards a collaboration under the concept of ‘social sustainability’. Here we can play a vital role in contributing with our knowledge and insight in the joint work towards a socially sustainable Europe, where health equity is a fundamental aspect.

EuroHealthNet promotes the social determinants of health and connects them to discussions concerning social inclusion and health in Europe. We, as regional authorities, cannot continue trying to make our multi-level and multi-sectorial actions bear fruit if the EU doesn’t also take this journey. Our vision for future public health is a movement where many stakeholders, with their own perspectives and knowledge, come together and contribute to moving towards health equity as a part in a sustainable future.

Maria Berhe
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Maria has worked at the Public Health Secretariat, Region Västra Götaland for the last three years. Her main issues are divided between the international and regional arena focusing the questions of health equity and governance as well as our assignment towards increased participation in working life. Maria has a Master’s degree in Human Rights and a Bachelor’s degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution.