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Arrythmia Alliance share their experience of the 62nd Regional Committee for EURO
by IAPO at 4:14PM Wednesday 03 October 2012 (News)

In September, IAPO facilitated the attendance of Fred Cotterill from the Arrhythmia Alliance, UK, at the Sixty-second session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe held in Valletta, Malta on 10-13 September 2012.

IAPO was also represented by IAPO Governing Board Member, Jolanta Bilinska. Fred and Jolanta made statements on non-communicable diseases under the agenda item Health 2020: European policy framework supporting action across government and society for health and well-being, and on Strengthening Public Health Capacities and Services.

Here, Fred shares what it was like to attend the Regional Committee:

"Flying into Malta’s Valetta Airport, I was excited to be representing IAPO at the 62nd Regional Committee for the European region of the World Health Organization (WHO). The topics up for discussion – dealing with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), addressing health inequalities, and renewing healthcare systems - were fascinating to anyone with an interest in improving global health, and strongly connected with IAPO’s objectives for more patient-centred healthcare systems.

No sooner had I dropped my bags in the hotel, I was straight out again to attend a meeting of NGOs. Run by experienced campaigners, it was an insight into the most effective methods for voicing the concerns of patients. A clear lesson was the importance of maintaining effort, and it was helpful to understand the processes of the Regional Committee and hear guidance from more experienced hands, which I can utilise for my own organisation, the Arrhythmia Alliance, and IAPO.

As with many conferences, NGOs are frequently “hangers-on” around the central business of the nations of the European WHO. Nevertheless, the time when member states were conducting elections or other procedural business was a chance to recap on background for the next session, order my notes on contacts and plan my angle for approaching the next on my list of target delegates!

The overarching strategy document for WHO is called Health 2020 and it formed the basis of much of the discussion. The document is both broad in coverage and comprehensive in depth, providing an evidence base and examples of best practice for nations to consider and implement. For patients’ organizations, the document’s focus on public health solutions is very important. We all know that long-term behavioural change is essential for public health success in terms of factors such as alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking. We also know that healthy lifestyles can only be achieved by individuals themselves taking charge of their health throughout life, rather than seeing it as a series of “crisis points”, necessitating medical intervention. I came away from the conference with a strong feeling that Health 2020 has placed another tool in the hands of patients’ organizations. With the resources and influence of WHO behind us, much of the background work has already been done; it is up to us to advocate the cause of patient centred healthcare, working with WHO to link it to the outcomes they aim for in Health 2020.

I strongly recommend that anyone in a patient advocacy role reads the documents for WHO Regional Committee for Europe, or at least their summaries, and consider how they can support your work. The agenda stretched far beyond the capacity to report here, but included health inequalities, healthy aging, health system reform, and the changing nature of WHO itself – all relevant and interesting topics for the members of IAPO. Also, it is important to stress the benefits of attending these events. I was able to speak with representatives from other NGOs, governments, and industry; networking is a cliché, but NGOs are much stronger when working collectively and collaboratively toward common goals. To achieve patient-centred healthcare, we must work with all stakeholders in healthcare, and the Regional Committee enabled Arrhythmia Alliance to partner with a range of experts to achieve this."

View Jolanta and Fred presenting IAPO's statements at the Regional Committee

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