Where are we heading: Healthier and wealthier?

Current and possible future regional challenges to health and social care as well as the economic impacts of population health in the Northern Dimension countries were discussed in a seminar organized by the ND Partnership in Public Health and Social Wellbeing (NDPHS) in cooperation with the eHealth for Regions Network during the EUSBSR Annual Forum in Stockholm.

The population health in the Northern Dimension area has seen very positive development in the past few years. However, we will be facing new challenges in the future as a result of demographic trends, epidemiological changes causing e.g. increase of chronic diseases, and climate change. Tackling these challenges requires investments. In some cases, these investment may bring measurable results only in 30-35 years, which decreases the interest of the politicians to make them. However, they should understand that investing in health and well-being of the population represents good value for money with the average returns on investments typically exceeding the initial investment costs many times. For example, the results of a study on potential years of life lost (PYLL) recently implemented under the auspices of the NDPHS clearly show how big the losses related to premature deaths in countries in our region were during last years, and how much national economies gain when there are less premature losses of life.

It was noted that there is a great need for innovative approaches across sectors to harness the opportunities and address current and emerging risks. Higher efficiency and cost-effective, smart solutions are a must, not least in the provision of health care. Increasing the application as well as further development of e-Health services is one promising approach but it will require further increased “health literacy” among the people. Health literacy refers to the motivation and ability of people to adopt health-promoting lifestyle. “It’s not about technology, it’s about how to use technology. eHealth can save lives as it can offer comparable services all over, also in the rural areas”, argued Professor Dr Roland Trill.

The seminar successfully demonstrated the linkages between the health sector with economy and other policy areas. As the moderator of the seminar Marek Maciejowski (NDPHS) put it: “It makes a lot of sense to invest in health as economic consequences of ill health are huge.”
For more information, you can access the seminar presentations, the chair’s conclusions as well as download the report compiled by Björn Ekman via NDPHS website.