Our Northern Dimension area is facing several pressing health challenges, among them the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and associated infections; the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance; the impact of non-communicable lifestyle-related diseases; social and health harm from alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use; chronic health conditions and demographic change.
With its new Strategy 2020, the NDPHS has committed itself to help address these challenges by providing a forum for concerted action, cooperation, joint capacity-building and coordination of activities within the Northern Dimension area. An Action Plan accompanying the Strategy is just about to be adopted. It is laying out concrete actions, targets and indicators aimed to facilitate the NDPHS efforts.
The NDPHS activities are a mix of both policy oriented and project oriented interventions targeting the above-mentioned challenges. As regards projects, the NDPHS portfolio of achievements includes, for example, a project focusing on HIV prevention among youth at high risk. This NDPHS Secretariat-led project has enabled an exchange of experiences and ideas between stakeholders working with children and youth in Finland, Latvia, Poland and Russia. Guidelines with best practices on HIV prevention have been developed and – also through the network of the NDPHS Expert Group on HIV/AIDS and Associated Infections – will be distributed to decision-makers for their consideration and action, if appropriate. Another project led by the NDPHS Secretariat, the “Northern Dimension Antibiotic Resistance Study (NoDARS)” aims at reducing the unnecessary use of broad-spectrum antibiotics by providing health care professionals and others with accurate data about the actual resistance level within the healthy population. Few individual projects will not, however, change the situation in our regions. This is why the NDPHS takes various actions on the policy field. One example is the recently held conference “Health is wealth and wealth is health” organised for parliamentarians from the Baltic Sea region on the sidelines of the BSPC annual session.
But – and this is prominently reflected in the NDPHS Strategy 2020 – not only international organisations working on health, ministries of health or local health authorities are responsible for and able to impact the health and social well-being of the population. Health is a cross-cutting issue: while it has an impact on all other policy areas, such as the economy, decision-making processes in other policy areas impact health. It is for that reason that health has to be reflected in all policies!
The NDPHS Strategy 2020 stresses the need to work with other stakeholders in the region. To that end, we invite you to join our efforts and to get involved in our work. For example, we are planning a conference promoting the project-to-policy-to-project cycle in spring 2016. Please do not hesitate to contact the NDPHS Secretariat if you are interested in this or any other opportunities offered by the NDPHS!
Director NDPHS Secretariat