Ministry of Health of Slovenia
The 10th Global Conference on Health Promotion: Health Promotion for Well-being, Equity and Sustainable Development, organized by WHO and held virtually on 13–15 December 2021, provided the ideal forum for discussion on the roles of the WHO Regions for Health Network (RHN) and its member regions in the design, implementation and follow-up of policies related to the promotion of health and well-being. During the Conference, the Network made a plea for stronger subnational involvement in this area.
A call for urgent decisive action
One of the many ways in which subnational authorities, particularly those at the regional level, could contribute to promoting health would be through their participation in discussions on, and the adoption and implementation of, related policies. By strengthening subnational involvement in this way, countries would be taking a significant step towards a people-centred approach to health promotion. At the same time, such a multilevel method of governance, bringing national, regional and local actors together, would provide regions with the support and empowerment they need to ensure social well-being at their level.
Practical RHN examples
Since regional and local authorities have been at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been witnessing first-hand the necessity for comprehensive planning and a multisectoral strategy for the promotion of healthy environments in their communities. During the Conference, Dr Bettina Menne, Regions for Health Network Coordinator, WHO European Centre for Investment for Health (Venice, Italy), provided an insight into how RHN is working to support its members in promoting health and well-being, for example, by sharing lessons learned and focusing on regional responses to major challenges, such as COVID-19 and climate change.
During the Conference, several members of the Network shared information on their approaches to promoting health.
Andalusia, Spain, is in the process of implementing the Andalusian Plan for Healthy Living, a comprehensive action plan encompassing interdepartmental efforts. The idea behind the Plan is that the promotion of healthy lifestyles leads to health benefits at a much lower cost than that for medical treatment of risk factors and diseases associated with unhealthy lifestyles.
Meuse-Rhine Euroregion, a cross-border region between 3 countries (Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands), recently conducted a study entitled “COVID-19 in a border region”. The study raised the awareness among national governments about the value of knowledge gained in cross-border regions and cross-national networks in tackling the pandemic. More importantly, it ascertained that this type of cooperation could also be useful in promoting well-being, equity and sustainable development.
North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, has established the Initiative for Health Promotion and Prevention, with a focus on mental health among vulnerable groups. With strong participatory orientation, the Initiative includes a framework for action and a mechanism for coordinating the work of the multidisciplinary actors involved.
Wales, United Kingdom, has adopted an innovative approach to the promotion of well-being based on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. This Act places a legal obligation on local authorities and other public bodies to ensure that their activities meet specific requirements, such as taking long-term perspectives into account through a collaborative and integrated approach.
The presentations of the regions on a variety of solution-based initiatives to promote health and well-being, and the ensuing discussions, illustrated how subnational authorities can contribute to the design and implementation of policy in this area, and that there are various entry points to doing so.
The outcome statement of the 10th Global Conference on Health Promotion, the Geneva Charter, can serve as a platform to promote RHN’s objective of developing people-centred approaches to achieving well-being in society.