Health Policy Making, a (eu-)regional perspective on participatory approach
After a warm word of welcome, the moderator, Mr Zambon of the WHO Regions for Health Network, presented briefly the well-known Sustainable Development Goals and outlined in an inspiring way how action is needed, from local to global level and from all stakeholders, in order to leave no-one behind. Because "what you do FOR us, WITHOUT us, is not FOR us"!
Mr Fateh-Moghadam, Head of the Health Observatory of the province of Trento, Italy, prepared a video presentation which remains available via this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYSo0aQiEvw. He explains how the Italian Trentino region set up a health plan, actively using a participatory approach. They made a special effort to leave no one behind and had a midterm evaluation in order to be able to have input from all subgroups of the Trentino population. In this process they gained a lot of good input from their citizens which was included in the final plan.
Ms Geenen of the support office of the euPrevent Foundation, who replaced Ms Schichel of Maastricht University, guided the audience through the project euPrevent Senior Friendly Communities and explained how the participatory approach was implemented at all levels: during the development of the project (different elderly groups were consulted); within the structure of the project (a citizen organisation is a project partner); within the assessments (mystery guests approached the communities and gave feedback); within the implementation (communities were urged to let citizens participate actively).
Ms Van der Zanden, director of the euPrevent Foundation, presented two citizen summits that were held in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine (EMR) to ask for input from the citizens on the topics: equity, participatory approach and human resources for health. These 3 topics were also addressed in the WHO RHN – CoR conference that was held in the EMR in June 2019. By asking for input from the citizens prior to the event, the voice of the citizen was incorporated in the event for professionals.
Ms van Dijk of the Flanders Agency for Care and Health, explained how the Flanders region worked out a new primary health care plan, together with all stakeholders, using a participatory approach on all levels. She showed how, by going slow in the beginning and involving all stakeholders, the commitment towards the plan grows. This way the implementation is supported by a bigger group of stakeholders.
Take away message
Involve citizens into policy development as real experts, on all levels. Not as an extra, as a real asset. That requires time, budget and above all a clear vision on who needs to be involved and how. If necessary, hire an expert organisation, such as EPECS, to help you implement a participatory approach. If you do not set it up in a fundamental way, you will not be able to use the outcome sufficiently and loose citizens’ involvement.
P. Fateh-Moghadam: ‘Make sure you leave no one behind. Track who you are reaching with your participatory approach and make a special effort, if necessary, to reach those left behind.’
A. Geenen: “Participatory approach is not something you do as an aside. It should be a fundamental decision and is part of every level of your plan or project.”
M. van Dijk: ‘It seems that a participatory approach takes a lot of time. That is true, but it also gains a lot of support in the long run.’
Ms van der Zanden: "Make sure that – when you present a project idea or initiative with the topics potential partners are keen on – you incorporate the participatory approach. Make it a “package deal”. By doing so the participatory approach will always be included, meaning: the citizens will always be involved."
F. Zambon: “Action is needed in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. But ‘what you do FOR us, WITHOUT us is not FOR us'. So, always use a participatory approach.”