Friday, 28 February 2020 14:32

"Health in all policies" - How does EUSBSR promote health?

Written by  Let's communicate

The pace of population ageing is much faster than in the past. According to World Health Organization statistics, the number of people aged 60 years and older outnumbers children younger than 5 years during 2020. Worth to mention, ageing issues are relevant in all local, national, regional and global levels keeping in mind the level of impact.

Therefore, all countries face challenges to ensure that their health and social systems (pensions, healthcare and long-term care systems) are ready to make the most of this demographic shift as a shrinking labour force may no longer be able to provide for a growing number of older people.

There is no doubt that the age profile of society in Baltic Sea Region is rapidly evolving – the proportion of people of working age is shrinking, while the number of older people is expanding. Addressing such major issues could not be limited to the local or national level. Consequently, regional cooperation becomes essential to tackle this problem and to ensure prosperity to the region.

In a framework of the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), Policy Area (PA) Health (coordinated by Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being) focuses on improving and promoting the health of people in the Baltic Sea region, including social aspects of health, as an important precondition for ensuring sustainable and healthy societies enjoying economic growth, and for containing future health and social care-related costs.

The region faces similar health and wellbeing-related issues

PA Health/NDPHS actions aim at reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and associated infections among populations at risk and contributing to the achievement of more rational use of antibiotics. Other actions comprise, for example, the reduction of social and health harms from alcohol, tobacco and illicit use of drugs, and strengthening of occupational safety and well-being at work. Moreover, according to revised Action Plan, PA Health seeks to (1) promote active and healthy ageing to address the challenges of demographic change, (2) promote a ‘Health in All Policies’ approach with focus on the impact of environmental factors, and especially climate change on human health, and (3) increase stakeholder and institutional capacity to tackle regional health challenges.

Health challenges are in their nature often transnational. Not only can diseases spread across borders, but the countries in the Baltic Sea Region also face similar health and wellbeing-related issues. Knowledge exchange between countries between countries saves national resources and creates better outcomes for citizens,” PA Health coordinator Ülla-Karin Nurm (Director of the NDPHS Secretariat) declares. In that matter, platform like the EUSBSR provides guidelines of exchanging experiences, competencies and solutions and creates opportunities for regional cooperation to tackle common problems.


EUSBSR flagship on active and healthy ageing in the Baltic Sea Region

What is more, PA Health coordinator Ülla-Karin Nurm explains that all countries around the Baltic Sea experience a similar demographic trend. “A growing proportion of older people in our societies is a testimony to our successes in improvement of health care and living standards and presents great opportunities for our region. At the same time, we will need to adapt to this change.” One of the main actions of PA Health for the future is to develop a flagship on active and healthy ageing in the Baltic Sea Region. PA Health have recently started the seed money project AgeFLAG, which is supported by funding from the Swedish Institute. Increased life expectancy in the Baltic Sea Region is in general a positive trend. However, healthcare and social systems are not well-prepared to meet the needs of an ageing population. The AgeFLAG project seeks to develop a common understanding on which policy interventions are most needed. The aim of the project is to develop a roadmap for future action on active and health ageing in the BSR by identifying the most important areas of action that can be tackled through cross-border cooperation.

The topic of ageing also highlights another unique feature of the EUSBSR - it enables cooperation not only between countries, but also across different sectors. It is believed that population ageing is poised to globally become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties. Therefore, ageing concerns not only health, but also economy, labour market, education and many other sectors.


Connection between the environment and human health

According to PA Health coordinator, the EUSBSR provides a platform to get in touch with actors from different sectors. “Since health is a cross-cutting issue, this is of particular value to us. We would like to promote the understanding that a “health in all policies” approach is needed. Not only is health the basis for all other activities in our society, but also do policies implemented in other sectors often have an impact on health and well-being,” Ms. Ülla-Karin Nurm concludes. She also explains that in the past PA Health has primarily focussed on highlighting the importance of health and well-being on the economy, however, in the future the PA Health will work towards a better understanding of the connection between the environment and human health, for example, the impact of pharmaceutical waste on levels of antimicrobial resistance.

There is no doubt that cooperation, exchange of experience and joint action in health sector are essential for the sustainable growth, development and prosperity in the region.

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