During my internship at Tamarack Ltd (Health Gain Project, Leader of Work Package 3), one of my tasks has been to find a European Region to volunteer to test the Health Gain online guide and to use it to assess a Structural Funds financed project in a non-health sector

The purpose of this test is two-fold: firstly, to see how regional officials go about preparing their regional development plans and how this translates into their Structural Fund programming, and secondly, to identify and deal with potential challenges that regional officials may encounter while using the guide. Ultimately, the idea is to gather examples of good practice for other regions to consider when applying the guide to their daily work.

Finding a volunteer region was for me a relatively easy task, and I had the pleasure of being in direct contact with both health and non-health officials, such as a Senior Medical Advisor, Public Health Scientists, Head of International Affairs, EU regions representatives in Brussels; Regional Developers; Project Developers and lastly, a Head of Unit at a Regional Office for the National Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.

Through emailing, I introduced the concept of Health Gain, and directed them to the online guide with the request to identify a suitable on-going Structural Fund related project. It wasn’t easy for the officials to clearly understand the interconnection between health gain, how to use the guide and in which of their on-going or planned projects it could serve to guide their work.

In most cases, the officials felt that a fellow colleague in a health related department would be a more appropriate “candidate” and I was therefore frequently referred onto other officials in the same region.

Now as far as I can see, the main reasons behind their lack of direct engagement or sense of involvement, was not as much an issue of lack of interest, or that the respective representatives didn’t understand the relevance of the online guide for their region, but rather that introducing the subject of health for officials normally not concerned with health, is not straightforward, since the concept of health gain in non-health sectors is a novelty per se.

One should bear in mind that this is the experience of one region in one specific country, so the impressions and responses from a different region in another country could be entirely different. Health has generally and historically been dealt with at a national level and within the boundary of the same. However, a more interconnected approach between sectors, regional authorities and even countries in Europe, would be necessary if health gains are to materialise through regional projects.

In this context, a continuous dissemination of the concept and direct interaction with relevant regional officials will aid in bridging the gap, and helping officials in finding ad hoc solutions and applications to their specific regional and organizational settings, thereby tapping in on the vast opportunities that Structural Funds projects present, even from sectors traditionally not concerned with health.

 

Anna Beling

Student, MSc European Public Health

Maastricht University

 

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