The National Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia is a government agency accountable and responsible for public health promotion at the national level. The National Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia is interested in the following work areas: Alcohol, Child Health, Communicable Diseases, Drugs and Substance Abuse, Environmental Health, Food Policy, Gender, Health Impact Assessment, Health Systems, HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health, Mental Health, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Tobacco. More about NIJZ: http://www.nijz.si/
By Professor Ivan ERŽEN – acting Director of the National Institute of Public Health – provides us with NIJZ objectives and expectations.
Professor Eržen, what are the aims of NIJZ?
NIJZ is a public institute. Following the legislative changes brought by Slovenia Health Services Act in 2013 the previous national institute of public health underwent organisational changes. From 2014, NIPH is organised as one central unit and nine regional offices.
There are about 400 employees, mostof them qualified to at least university degree level. Among them there are more than sixty medical doctors that have completed 4 years postgraduate study in public health.
The National Institute of Public Health is the central Slovenian institution for public health practice, research and education. Its academic staff work on various tasks covering the areas of epidemiology of communicable and non-communicable diseases, health promotion, health protection, health systems research and national coordination of preventive programmes in primary health care. It also functions as the central health statistical authority. Although public health practice is not in the exclusive domain of a single type of organisation or profession, in Slovenia as in many other countries, the majority of important public health functions and services are now provided by NIJZ.
The main function of NIJZ is to provide research in the field of health, protect and increase the level of health of the population by raising the awareness of the population, and carrying out other preventive measures. NIPH’s main activities are funded by the Ministry of Health and include national health statistics and research in the field of public health including health care system; activities to identify health threats and design measures for their control; designing and providing health promotion programmes and preparing scientific base for health-friendly policies, programmes and measures for disease prevention.
Through very close cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Slovenia, we have an important impact on Slovenian health policy, but even further, we also have an impact on EU policy. For example we have supported the Ministry of Health in preparing new EU legislation on tobacco control. Through the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, the School Fruit Scheme was adopted. As you know, we are working on the implementation of the social investment package and the integration of health and social sectors, with a particular focus on older people. Our experiences in this field will be of great importance for further developments in other countries.
What kind of research / campaigns do you carry out in order to promote health ?
We are very active. We don’t have space here to describe all the research and other project and campaigns. But I must mention a few which are of particular importance. We are just finishing a European wide project where NIPH was a leading partner – EPAAC (The European Partnership for Action Against Cancer). The project is really very successful and we have done our job very well. As a result, we will also be the leading partner in its CANCON which will follow EPAAC. NIPH is also a leading partner in PARENT- which aims to add value to patient registries.
I am very proud of some of the campaigns that were initiated in Slovenia. One of them is Partnership for Adolescents: THIS IS ME. Established in 2001, the programme aimed to strengthen mental health in adolescents, develop positive self-esteem, social and communication skills and other life competencies to support adolescents in their everyday lives. Partnership for Adolescents employs two distinct approaches; first, it is centred on an online counselling service at http://www.tosemjaz.net, where Slovenian adolescents have access to professional help. Second, it focuses on the school environment through organized training for teachers.
We have also developed a special health promotion programme for people living in rural areas. Through the programme we want to support people in developing a healthy lifestyle, thus promoting health.
It is very important for us to develop appropriate communication approaches which will help us to give the people the right message, to give them the message that they will accept and make use of. Right now we are in the process of developing a more effective communication strategy. The main role of NIPH is to prepare scientific basis for health policies, preventive programmes and activities. NIPH in recent years prepared some analyses, which helped different ministries to design core preventive measures. Such analyses are Health in Slovenia – short analyses of 60 indicators of health and healthcare systems (to be published in next weeks); Alcohol in Slovenia; Health and Health Related Lifestyle in Slovenia, Trends in Health Related Behaviour in School-aged Children, Health Inequalities in Slovenia. All these publications are available on our web page, some in English
NIPH also prepares the proposals for interventions which tackle the most urgent issues. Mainly through regional offices, we deliver preventive programmes in the field of healthy lifestyles in schools and local communities. In recent years we addressed smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
However, NIPH is trying to engage and empower non-governmental organisations to work together in providing such preventive activities.
What is your vision (ideal scenario) for public health and health promotion in the EU? How can EuroHealthNet contribute to achieving this?
If I look into the future I see that we will achieve better health of the population through good cooperation with other sectors. We need to find ways and language for common understanding that will enable us to work together. The second most important thing is good cooperation with nongovernmental organisations. They represent amazing potential for social activity which is essential in public health.
I don’t think that Slovenia is very much different from other countries when it comes to public health. It is true that we have some great success stories and so do other countries. I am convinced that EuroHealthNet can bring us together and help us to exchange some bad and some good experiences. That would help us to advance more quickly, and not to lose valuable time by repeating mistakes. For me it is also very important that we work together in order to develop new methods and approaches in promoting health and preventing of diseases- that will be even more effective than those that we use now.
“Traditional Slovenian Breakfast”, a communication campaign aiming to educate, inform and raise awareness among children in kindergartens and elementary schools about the importance of breakfast, importance and benefits of locally grown food, importance of agricultural activities on the environment and the importance of beekeeping to agricultural production and economic activity.
Professor Ivan ERŽEN
Professor Ivan ERŽEN is acting as Director at the Slovenian National Institute of Public Health. He previously worked at the department for epidemiology at National Institute of Public Health where he was mainly involved in communicable diseases survey. After six years, he took the position at Institute of Public Health Celje and started to work in the field of environmental health. He first lead the department and then became the director of the Institute but continued working also in his profession.