10 years European Health Forum Gastein: EHFG 2007 reaches new dimensions

Bad Hofgastein 06 August 2007The European Health Forum Gastein is being held for the tenth time this year. Over the past decade, this autumnal meeting of leading figures from the realms of politics, administration, business and science has established itself as the most important platform for the presentation and discussion of new developments in the field of European health policy and the organisation of health systems in European states.

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Around 600 participants are expected to visit the EHFG this year. Around 150 presentations and discussions will take place in the four days from the 3rd to 6th of October 2007. Notable representatives from the field of politics include, amongst others, EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou, Portuguese health minister and representative of the EU Council presidency Antonió Fernando Correia de Campos and Slovenian health minister Andrej Brucan. Austrian representatives include chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, health minister Andrea Kdolsky and provincial governor Gabi Burgstaller. The best known experts include Robert Madelin, Director General of the European Commission's Directorate General for Public Health and Consumer Protection for Health and Consumer Protection, Reinhard Busse from the Berlin University of Technology and Sir Marmot of the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition to the health programme, a ceremony will be held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the EHFG, with Austrian health minister Andrea Kdolsky to hold the key note speech.

"In the tenth year of its existence, the European Health Forum Gastein can more than ever claim to be the leading expert health policy event within the European Union", enthused EHFG president Günther Leiner. "Gastein is where the developments are prepared that often shape health policy in Europe for years to come."

A decisive factor in establishing the EHFG's important position is the exceptional concept behind the event, which draws together representatives from the fields of politics, health administration, NGOs, science and business. "There are a large number of congresses where researchers meet, conferences for industry representatives or conventions for administrative representatives", Günther Leiner stated. "As an event that provides an institutionalised forum for exchanges between these groups, the EHFG is one of a kind in Europe, at least in such a comprehensive form."

On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the European Health Forum Gastein has introduced the "European Health Forum Award". This new accolade is awarded to health policy innovations in Europe that make contributions to tackling key challenges facing public health and health services. The European Health Forum Award will be awarded annually. Sponsors of the prize are Siemens Medical Solutions, Pfizer Germany, the Austrian Federal Chamber of Commerce, Pharmig - the Austrian trade association of the pharmaceutical industry - and Burda Holding.

"Good will alone is not enough for initiatives in the health sector", stated EHFG president Günther Leiner. "The good intentions behind a project are not a criterion when deciding upon a winner. Each submission needs to present empirical evidence of its results. Only then is it considered for the European Health Forum Award." This underlines the goal of providing a platform for exemplary initiatives and projects in health care and prevention across Europe that function as role models for other regions and EU member states.

Although only established a few months ago, numerous projects have been submitted for this year's European Health Forum Award. More than 25 projects are in the running. The EHFG board is deciding on the shortlist of five finalists in August. The first winner of the award will be selected by an expert jury composed of leading health experts from across Europe - including former British health minister John Bowis and Andrzej Rys, Director of Public Health at the European Commission's DG SANCO. The prize will be presented as part of the EHFG in a ceremony on Friday, 5th October.

The European Health Forum Gastein 2007 will cover a broader range of content than ever before. Leading experts will present and discuss many of the most important topics regarding European health policy and health policies throughout the EU member states in more than than 20 plenary sessions, forums and workshops.

The first EU initiative specifically dealing with health care is uncharted territory for the EU. For the first time, the European Commission is attempting to form a uniform European health care model, in order to raise the quality and safety of health services across member states. This could result in significant improvements to the co-ordination of health measures and in establishing uniform standards. Leading EU experts and member states involved in drawing up these measures will have the opportunity to meet at Gastein in order to discuss the Commission's recommendations immediately prior to the expected closure of proceedings. These are expected to be presented shortly after the EHFG.

The continuously increasing numbers of patients and rising costs demand new medical and organisational approaches to the treatment of chronic diseases, in particular diabetes. Innovation in terms of both new technology and new forms of care will be necessary to stabilise these key areas of European health care systems for the future. New care models will break up outdated structures and lastingly alter the care provided to the chronically ill. Experts will present numerous successful examples of innovative solutions in a push to implement them across Europe.

Advancements in the treatment of serious, formerly often lethal illnesses, pushes significant areas of the health care systems to the limits of financial feasibility. Cancer therapy in particular has experienced exploding costs because of improved treatment methods and a positive rise in the life expectancy of patients. Top experts will present organisational and financial models that are aimed at ensuring that all patients benefit from the most modern and effective treatment methods.

Experts will introduce extensive studies on the impact of emissions and climate change on health. They will also highlight the expected positive effects of climate protection measures in European industrial nations and the possible savings that can be made in health care as a result of improved environmental standards.

At least since the European Commission set public health genomics as a priority, the opportunities and risks associated with genetic tests and gene databases in the public health domain became a controversial issue in European health policy. A range of leading experts will discuss the opportunities for prevention and therapy, as well as the most important ethical, legal and social aspects of this issue.

By 2020, mental illnesses will have become the most significant type of disease in industrialised nations. Even now, 27 percent of all adults in the European Union already suffer from at least one incidence of mental illness each year. Effective countermeasures are to be developed based on a green paper released by the European Commission.

Society and governments in the developed world are intensely looking for ways to counter an ageing population and declining birth rates. Medical support, for example in the form of artificial insemination and new fertility treatments, can make a significant contribution towards overcoming these problems. At EHFG, experts will present a VVV study on the possible impact that assisted reproductive technologies (ART) may have on population development.

In addtion, the European Health Forum Gastein together with the European Commission intends to bring promising young researchers and policy makers to Gastein. This Young Gastein Scholarship will offer a unique opportunity for learning and networking to future decision makers who will be part of shaping the future of health in Europe. More information on "10 Years Gastein - Shaping the future of health" is available at the European Health Forum Gastein website.


Leslie Versweyveld

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