What is it like in the unusual world in which EuroHealthNet works? European networking is not new; it has been practiced since the times of classical Greece and the Vikings! However the European Union has only existed since the latter part of the twentieth century. Some of its institutions and processes are unique in the world. For example the European Parliament has been the only directly elected cross border legislative assembly in the world since 1979. So the ways we now work are very different from the daily experiences of most of the half a billion people who live within the EU.
It is also changing rapidly. In 2013 Croatia will become the 28th EU Member State, and several others from Iceland to Turkey are in various stages of application to join. Most readers will be aware of the impacts of financial problems on their own area, and maybe about what is happening elsewhere. Europe is certainly not homogenous but diverse, as are our members, partners and people who are part of the EuroHealthNet network.
In 2013 we will celebrate a decade of work together as our own legal entity, based in Brussels, close to the heart of all those institutions, if not always in agreement with their decisions. We can also mark two decades since national health promotion bodies first discussed networking with the European Commission, gradually establishing the European Network of Health Promotion Agencies (ENHPA), our forerunner. We have evolved and grown, and now we are thinking ahead to the next decade, just as the EU and WHO have done in their very different 2020 strategies.
Health promotion is primarily about empowering people. Our mission is to help improve health, wellbeing and equity for all. We can point to major outputs over those decades, and our members and stakeholders have used that shared learning to contribute to improving health outcomes in the communities for which they have responsibility and expertise. That period has seen steady improvements in many wellbeing indicators. However latest data shows a downturn not just in economic impacts, but in social, environmental and health factors. That means the work we do is needed more than ever before.
We are launching this magazine because our evaluations and experiences show that we can help by opening up our work to new audiences and partners. We need to use clearer language, better images and less impenetrable jargon, both about the EU and about health. Our vision for a healthier EU does not involve building more hospitals. We want to prevent sickness and distress by tackling the real factors and causes, not just the symptoms. We need innovative solutions for the real world.
So welcome to the first of our new series about the people, the ideas, the initiatives, the needs and the less well known aspects of the world of EuroHealthNet. This first edition puts the spotlight on the anti-tobacco campaigns of our French Member – The Institut National de Prévention et d’Education pour la Santé – INPES.
If you find this magazine useful, do tell us or let us know how we can improve it – and why not send us your news or ideas too? Most of all, we hope you enjoy reading it- do share it with your colleagues, friends, families and people everywhere, because health is an asset not a burden; it should be a pleasure and a public good, to be valued and to contribute to happiness, wellbeing and a better world for all.
Clive advises the EuroHealthNet Executive Board and managing director on policies relating to health for all EU activities and actions on social, economic and environmental determinants of equity and wellbeing. He was formerly overall EuroHealthNet director for thirteen years and continues to work in support of WHO and other international organisations and projects in Europe.