Public health policy in a European context at the Health Forum Gastein

Bad Hofgastein 02 June 1999 The European Health Forum Gastein, scheduled for October 6th to 9th 1999 will be placed under the slogan of "Creating a better future for health in Europe". This is what the organizers announced in Bad Hofgastein, Austria. It will be the second time that health policy makers meet in the resort in the region of Salzburg to discuss health policy. The Forum is about to become the most important meeting of European health policy makers. This year the social aspects of health care and the consequences of new technologies for the health sector will be discussed.

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The European Health Forum Gastein, scheduled for October 6th to 9th 1999 will be placed under the slogan of "Creating a better future for health in Europe". This is what the organizers announced in Bad Hofgastein, Austria. It will be the second time that health policy makers meet in the resort in the region of Salzburg to discuss health policy. The Forum is about to become the most important meeting of European health policy makers. This year the social aspects of health care and the consequences of new technologies for the health sector will be discussed.

The meeting is financed by the European Commission and supported by the WHO. Health Ministers from several European countries, as well as high-ranking representatives from different health related institutions, are expected to take part in the discussions. The six fora will deal with quality assurance in the health sector, equal access to health services, health promotion, information technologies, as well as research in the areas of rare diseases and biomedicine.

"In Europe nowadays, health policy decisions can no longer be taken according to purely national concerns. If we want to keep the high standard of the European health systems, we must increasingly rely on an intensive exchange of views and information. The Gastein Forum aims at bringing people together, from all over Europe, who work in the field of health care. The Forum offers a unique opportunity for discussing the pressing problems outside the formal committees", said the President of the Forum, the Austrian health politician, Dr. Günther Leiner. The organizers also want to achieve results at the meeting. A "Gastein Paper", which is to be adopted during the Forum, should make recommendations to the European health policy makers on issues to be tackled in the forthcoming years.

The Gastein Forum brings together representatives from politics, business, science and from non-governmental organizations, like patient groups, in order to initiate a dialogue on the challenges facing the European health systems. Last year approximately 230 specialists participated in the Forum. This year the Forum invited more NGOs and health policy makers from Southern and Eastern Europe so that a broader spectrum of participants is expected. For registration and further information, contact:

International Forum Gastein
Tauernplatz 1
A-5630 Bad Hofgastein
Phone : +43-6432-711070
Fax : +43-6432-711071
e-mail: info@ehfg.org
Web site: http://www.ehfg.org

For interview requests and more detailed information, please contact Mr. Christoph Köstinger, Secretary General of the International Health Forum Gastein, under phone: +43-6432-711070, fax : +43-6432-711071 or e-mail: info@ehfg.org

For more information about the European Health Forum Gastein, we refer to the VMW article President of the International Forum Gastein announces Second European Health Forum Gastein.


Interview with Dr. Leiner

Health policy is mainly a national task. Why do we need a European Health Forum?

Decisions in health policy can no longer be taken according to purely national concerns in a day and age in which we can hardly even speak of national economies anymore, due to the existing interdependencies. This is particularly true in the Europe of the common market. National decisions can easily prove unsustainable, if the consequences for the neighbouring states are not taken into account. On the other side the area of health is a sector where the fundamental decisions result from negotiations between the main stakeholders. This is why we need a European framework, where representatives from the different political levels and from the various interest groups in health policy, from politics, science, business and NGOs are able to meet. It is this framework that the Gastein Forum aims at providing.

Do you intend to promote a stronger harmonisation at the European level with the Forum?

I basically believe that the most efficient level of management for health services is the national level, if not the regional level. This is the only way of answering the patients' claim for proximity addressed to the health institutions. I can not envisage of home nursing devised according to uniform European standards. There are however areas where European solutions can prove more effective. An example is research in the field of rare diseases. Here, the costs of research have to be born by all Member States, because research would simply be too expensive for the individual state to finance. In general, I think that we would obtain better research results, if European scientists co-operated better. Another example is the market for pharmaceutics. Here the EU competition rules can prevent pharmaceutical producers from striking deals at high expense. This can only be achieved with difficulty on a national level.

For this year's Forum you chose the slogan "Creating a better future for health in Europe". That seems very ambitious.

Of course we cannot deal with all the questions at once. This is why this year we have selected two themes we consider central for discussion. These are first of all the social aspects of public health, such as quality assurance and access to health services for all social groups, as well as preventive medicine. The second theme will be the consequences for the health sector of new technologies. There, we will mainly look into information technology and biomedicine. For each of these themes, we will set up three working groups.

You are planning to adopt a "Gastein Paper" at the Forum in October. Whom will this document be addressed to?

We intend to draft a catalogue of recommendations for the European institutions, mainly for the Commission and the European Parliament. Thereby we wish to put those problems and subjects forward which in our opinion should be dealt with at the EU level; as well as identify the problems best solved at the national level. Given the wide spectrum of participants, I believe the Forum will be able to produce a Paper, which will reflect the positions of most stakeholders in the health sector.

Dr. Günther Leiner (59), Austria, President of the International Forum Gastein, is an internal specialist and is medical superintendent at the Institute of Rheumatology, Rehabilitation and Psychosomatic Medicine in Bad Gastein. He is also a member of the Austrian Parliament for the Austrian People's Party.


Christoph Köstinger

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