Health promotion and disease prevention: “Use the power in the EU to empower a healthy you!”

This blog includes the key takeaways that emerged in the policy debate “Health promotion and disease prevention: finding the right ingredients” organized by the FTI Consulting Brussels Health Practice on 20 June.

 

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This is a timely moment to discuss health promotion and disease prevention. As highlighted by the Companion Report 2017 published by the European Commission in the State of Health in the EU initiative, prevention is a key element to ensure a high level of mental and physical well-being and to reduce both communicable and non-communicable diseases. However, implementing effective prevention and health promotion policies is by no means an easy task.

On the one hand, the urgency of the current situation and an inevitable ‘short-termism’ pushes decision-makers to often focus on tackling diseases as opposed to investing in prevention initiatives. On the other hand, the multi-sectoral approach needed to successfully reap the benefits of prevention lacks a comprehensive framework to support it even if at EU-level, the Tartu call for a healthy lifestyle captured this need, identifying the physical activity, nutrition and education policies as drivers in the promotion of health and the prevention of diseases.

Against this backdrop, on 20 June, the FTI Consulting Brussels Health Practice organised a breakfast event entitled “Health promotion and disease prevention: finding the right ingredients”. The aim of this debate was to foster an enriching discussion on the role of physical activity, nutrition and digital technologies as ingredients when it comes to cooking-up well-being and the prevention of disease.

 

The discussion, held in an interactive format, was divided into 2 different thematic sessions. The first, brought together Wojciech Kalamarz, from DG SANTÉ, Maria-Luisa Fernandez Esteban from DG EAC and Clive Needle, Senior Policy Advisor at EuroHealthNet. The debate centred on the role of public institutions and public bodies in promoting health “our most valuable capital”. Mr Kalamarz underlined the good progress in the EU especially with regard to policies on reformulation and public procurement measures aimed at increasing healthy lifestyle in schools, prisons and public sector workplaces.

Ms Fernandez Esteban from DG EAC outlined an impressive range of initiatives in the sport and exercise policy area, including the European Week of Sport, noting that this could go from strength to strength based on planned budget increases for this sector of EU policy. The EU, therefore, has the power to help citizens increase their health being it through legislation, funding programmes or sharing of best practices. Mr Needle, representing the national level health promotion agencies who come together under the umbrella of EuroHealthNet, nicely summed up what should be the EU added-value for health equity. At the centre of this conversation, the notion of empowerment was frequently raised; “how can we enable people to increase control over, and to improve, their health”.

While the answer to this question might not be delivered on a plate, but in the kitchen support of the European Institutions and civil society and stakeholders, the panel managed to come up with a pretty tasty recipe which should help move us closer to the objective of giving citizens greater control over the issues which impact their health and wellness.

 

The second session was aimed at fostering a discussion amongst stakeholders from the sporting, nutrition and digital and sectors – the ingredients. The panel included Alessandro Tschirkov, Director Government Affairs EMEA at Herbalife Nutrition, Jérôme Pero, Secretary General of the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry, Bart Vandewaetere, Head of Corporate Communications and Government Relations at Nestlé Europe, Lukas Declerq, EU Policy Officer for Physical Activity and active ageing at EuropeActive and Elena Bonfiglioli, Regional Business Leader Health and Life Science EMEA, Microsoft. Panellists presented how their respective sectors contribute to the health promotion and, as we quickly realised, the right ingredients were in front us; from harnessing the power of brands and data to engaging in physical activity on a weekly basis, all actors around the table realised that it all boiled down to the specific role their own ingredient had, to make-up the final dish.

One of the main conclusions of the discussion was that the right ingredients for successful health promotion and disease prevention are not only exercise and nutrition – but these need to be combined with an important cross-sectoral involvement with education, housing, transport, etc. The role the EU can play in this important task was underlined by all speakers regardless of their background – with Petra Wilson, the moderator, concluding that it was time for us to “Use the power in the EU to empower a healthy you!”.

FTI Health Practice  

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