Four Young Gasteiners at Political Hour with Commissioner Andriukaitis’ cabinet!

On June the 3rd four Young Gasteiners Alumni Gabriele Pastorino, Roberta Savli, Francesco Florindi and Ann Marie Borg were offered the great opportunity to join the European Commission trainees’ Health Affairs Sub-committee for the so-called ‘’Political Hour’’ meeting.

The meeting provided a unique platform to meet and interact with Commissioner Andriukaitis’ cabinet and gave participants the possibility to ask questions and to engage in active discussions.

Group Photo after the "Political hour" with Andriukaitis team, with EC trainees and Young Gasteiners

Group photo after the “Political hour” with Andriukaitis team, with EC trainees and Young Gasteiners

The delegation was received by the Head of Cabinet,Mr Arunas Vinciunas, and by Ms Paula Duarte, Cabinet expert. After a brief introduction the delegates engaged in a Q&A session on the Political Priorities of the Commissioner and asked questions targeting some of the Andriukaitis agenda’s “hot topics”.

Several technical and political issues were touched upon and the Cabinet representatives provided genuine answers and feedback taking advantage of the rather informal setting of the discussion.

Among the themes that came up and were debated:

  • what are the strategies and challenges to support the Member States to strengthen intersectoral governance, whole of society and cross-policy approaches to ensure health is taken into account by all governmental policies
  • using economics of prevention’s data and economic cases to assert the need to develop certain public health policies and develop new regulations
  • patients’ empowerment and patients’ increased participation in decisions to influence policies
  • the new EU Health Programme and how it supports patients’ organisations
  • the role of the health sector lobbies and the challenges for the European Commission to listen to their perspective as part of a transparent legislative process

The Head of Cabinet underlined the challenges to bring together the policy positions of all Member States on a subject matter – health – which is still strongly controlled by Member States themselves as part of their national competencies.

Notwithstanding the objective limits imposed on DG SANTE by the Treaties, some European health policies have achieved considerable success, if not directly affecting the life of patients, at least harmonising the way several Member States face common health threats. For instance Ms Duarte stressed the Commission’s 30 years-long experience on cancer, which will be further enhanced by the launch of new work on rare cancers as foreseen in the work plan 2015 of the Health Programme.

The meeting was a real success and a truly unique occasion for young Gasteiners to be exposed to high level policy decision makers in a really informal context. It was the first of what we hope will become a regular cooperation between the Young Forum Gastein and the EC Health Affairs Sub-committee, a sub-committee whose goal it is to create a network of trainees from across all Directorate Generals who are interested in/working on health-related issues.

This blog entry was written by Young Gasteiner Gabriele Pastorino.

Gabriele Pastorino_Picture_Young Forum Gastein


Mastering the ‘Dark Arts’ of Conference Facilitation

Happily, perhaps like you, I‘ve been approached in the past to facilitate various workshops and conferences. I‘ve invariably accepted the challenge without hesitation, experiencing both a sense of professional pride and personal enthusiasm.

Indeed, it’s always an honour to be asked, surpassed only by subsequently being invited back the following year, of course.

However, as the date of an event approaches, my initial positive feelings have sometimes slowly morphed into a looming sense of worry.

What if I suddenly get visibly nervous during my opening remarks? What if I make a mess of introducing the Minister of Health? What if my carefully scripted bon mot pans horribly and I find myself staring into a sea of expressionless faces? And the list could well go on. I’m quite sure you could add some more.

Perhaps somewhat naïvely, I hadn‘t even considered the possibility of receiving proper facilitation training, i.e. potentially vanquishing a very human emotion: Situational self-doubt.

Such an opportunity knocked at my door in the form of a kind invitation by the EHFG. I was encouraged to attend a course designed to purposefully highlight that facilitation could be undertaken with studied confidence. A golden opportunity to put to rest the ‘Fake-It-Until-You-Make-It’ modus operandi often applied by myself and many other facilitators.

The Course: EHFG Conference Facilitation Training. The Trainer: David Rose of LACS Training.

During the one-andIMG_20150603_130205-a-half day training session held in the centre of sunny Brussels in early June, I was fortunate enough to join seven vastly experienced participants, all of whom have close ties to the EHFG.

We were put through our facilitation paces by the affable David Rose, who showed remarkable skill and stamina to keep us engaged throughout. We were gifted the hands-on opportunity to learn-by-doing, including being filmed delivering (by design) somewhat hastily prepared presentations.

Providing ample practical feedback, Mr. Rose also created relaxed opportunities for questions and the mutual sharing of personal experiences, often resulting in really stimulating group discussion.Bild1

The obviously playful, yet apt, use of the phrase ‘the Dark Arts of Facilitation’ entered the fray towards the end of the course, as useful tips and pointers scattered throughout the course were summed up in the context of the facilitator‘s role.

Indeed, like so many other approaches, facilitation is both a science and an art, with a portion of gentle nudging thrown in for good measure. Whilst practice does make perfect and mastering the dark arts of facilitation is most certainly a journey, the course equipped with us a road-map and a compass en route.

Departing Brussels on a late flight back to Iceland, I began to count down the days until I have the honour of facilitating a workshop on Health Promoting Schools in Glasgow in the early autumn.

There, I‘ll be able try out my improved skill set with an increased sense of self-efficacy. Sans self-doubt.

A concrete step towards helping me master the ‘dark arts’ of conference facilitation.

Hédinn Svarfdal Björnsson

Hédinn Svarfdal Björnsson is a Project Manager at the Icelandic Directorate of Health, part-time University Lecturer, award-winning author, and attendee of the EHFG conference since 2009, initially as a Young Gasteiner.


First Programme Announcement!

EHFG 2015: Securing health in Europe. Balancing priorities, sharing responsibilities

We proudly present the


of EHFG-2015-1PAthe 18th European Health Forum Gastein. This year, the conference will cover topics such as sustainable health systems and health economics. The focus will be on health system performance, pricing of medicines and health security, including health threat responses, European development aid and health policy development. The overarching question behind it all is how to maintain and improve the health of European citizens. As every year, we expect high-level speakers for the sessions and plenaries. In keeping with our established tradition participants will come from all four EHFG pillars: Government and administration, science and academia, industry, as well as from civil society. Information on conference sessions will be regularly updated on our website.

Register online NOW and secure your early-bird fee!

18th European Health Forum Gastein: 30th September to 2nd October

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Young Gasteiners join Uni Maastricht Study Trip to DG SANTÈ / DG NEAR

Last week, Young Gasteiners joined students from the Maastricht University at their study trip to DG SANTÈ / DG NEAR. The group consisted of people from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, Hungary and Austria. We were welcomed by Canice Nolan DG SANTÈ and Dorthe Fors from DG NEAR and enjoyed a two-hour informal get-together, where Candice Nolan shared some insights about the commission. We got an impression of the relation between WHO, UN and EC and the five directorates related to health.

Canice Nolan elaborated on treaty discussions at the WHO. One member state is asked to represent the EC and the shared vision of all member states. Since the EC is not part of the WHO or UN, the EC would otherwise have to wait until the end of the discussions until it could contribute. Sometimes it is very difficult to come up with a shared vision between member states when it comes to topics such as sexual health and reproduction, where Ireland and Poland will have fundamentally different views than Sweden and the Netherlands. Furthermore, Canice Nolan stated that also communication and collaboration with the industry is very important. “Since all are part of the problem, we should all be part of the solution.”

IMG_0943Lastly, we discussed the role of funders of WHO. The EC is one of the biggest funders, but yet its influence is not in proportion. The US and the Gates foundation are the biggest funders, but a danger lies in the acceptance of money from organisations such as the Gates foundation as they will only fund research and projects that they believe are right. The question of legitimisation arises.

After a very interesting two-hour meeting with DG SANTÈ and DG NEAR, part of the group left to the Parlamentarium for a tour.

This blog was written by Joreintje Mackenbach (Young Forum Gastein 2014 scholar)



Experience of a Young Gasteiner – Apply now for the Young Forum Gastein 2015

My experience at the European Health Forum Gastein was highly valuable at professional and personal level. Professionally, I had the chance to meet senior and young colleagues in the health care sector either working as policy makers or as researchers. I could discuss with them about health related topics such as the transposition of the European Union cross border health care directive, the development of personalized medicine in Europe, or the impact that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership may have in European public health. It was interesting to share different perspectives from different countries and contexts. Moreover, I had the chance to create some working alliances which may bring some fruitful results for my project in diabetes modeling. For example, I am now in contact with an international body for a potential staff exchange in their organization. From a personal perspective, I met very nice people from different cultures with whom I shared four wonderful days in a very unique place. We shared fresh air at 2,500 meters in the Alps, we had some delightful food at the receptions, and we had much fun dancing untillate in the evenings. I would recommend this experience to anyone, especially those working in the public health sector and at decision making positions.

Apply now for the Young Forum Gastein 2015. Click here.

Sonia García Pérez

Autor: Sonia García Pérez