After a short introduction by Harry Rutter from London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, Ma Ying-Jeou the President of Taiwan R.O.C. bid us welcome. In his welcoming video he pointed out that finding ways to reduce health inequalities, is the major task of public health leaders. Since introducing a national weight reduction program, the average Taiwanese has lost 1.5 kg and the President has contributed with 4 kg.
Kasia Czabanowska from Maastricht University, addressed the question; what is public health leadership? A question to which there are many answers. I’ll sum up some of the takes on this question:
“Public health leaders need to think globally and act locally, and find the balance between health and social injustice” – When-Ta Chiu Minister of Health and Welfare Taiwan
“Finding a way to secure that health care is available to everyone” Harm Jan Driessen
Kasia concluded by saying that modern public health leadership needs no more heroes. The young upcoming leaders in public health today, needs to be willing to join the work in the field, and impose a horizontal leadership. We need a radically different leadership in our century, and without emotional competence, you are no leader at all.
It seems to me that the era of top-down leadership within public health in Europe is over.
Harry Burns from the University of Stratchlyde went further into the challenges of health inequalities. He pointed out that public health problems are often oversimplified, by addressing single factors like smoking or alcohol consumption, and that this leads to ineffective measures. The main contributor to premature mortality in Scotland is economic inequality, affecting younger working age people according to the professor. Therefore efforts to increase public health should address problems arising in socio-economic underprivileged parts of the society.
Sara Riggare (Karolinska Instituet) contributed a personal story: getting diagnosed with Parkinsons at a young age, she has a degree in engineering and public health, and is currently doing a ph. d. project on patient leadership. Defining herself as a “patients rights extremist” she advocated strongly for engaging patients in self care, a form of leadership that can be taken at the patient level.
Closing off the session of Forum 1, Jin-Chuan Sheu and Hsiao-Ching Nien from the Liver Disease Prevention and Treatment Research Foundation in Taiwan, contributed an NGO perspective to healthcare leadership. The Foundation has managed to address the major challenge of hepatocellular carcinoma, a disease that mainly results from chronic hepatitis B and C in Taiwan. Taiwan started a national vaccination program in 1984, and Dr. Sheu and Dr. Nien were convincingly asserting us that they wouldn’t give up before they had beat the challenge of hepatocellular carcinoma in Taiwan. A song from Taiwan performed by Dr. Nien beautifully finished this session. (I hope to upload a video of this performance)
The summarising discussion addressed the importance of implementing training in public health leadership in more levels of the educational system, from pre- to post-graduate level. Children were noted as being great advocates to bring the message of a healthy lifestyle to the homes of families, highlighting how the school environment can often be a better arena for promoting public health than in the hospital.
Finally the session participants addressed the problem that free market laws potentially threaten the implementation of health providing regulations and can potentially remove investments from social responsible projects.
All in all the modern leaders of public health today, need to stay in connection with the people they represent, be emotionally engaged and tough when addressing the health problems related to social and economic inequality.
By: Bendik Brinchmann (YFG) on behalf of Working Group 1.