In 2022, the European Health Forum Gastein celebrates its 25th anniversary. On this page and in our podacst The Gastein Conversations, we want to take you on a journey back in time – explore the history of our Forum, European health policy, and the interlinkages between both.
The EHFG legacy is a breath of fresh air – often quite literally as one breathes the pure mountain air, but also in terms of the forum it creates for fresh thinking on European health issues. Over the many years I have known it, the combination of an ongoing network of patients, professionals, policy-makers, scientists and academics and a programme of relevant and topical presentations and seminars has re-charged my policy-maker’s batteries and opened my politician’s eyes. One rarely comes away from the Gasteinertal without a better understanding of Europe’s potential to change or influence health policy for the better. I have always left determined to find a way through the complexities of EU competencies and inter-departmental rivalries and to make a reality of our stated belief that health is a pre-requisite for economic well-being and that health can only be achieved if it is understood across every section of government and every Commission Directorate.
by John Bowis
It has been emphasised throughout the history of our organisation that the EHFG would not be what it is today, would not have achieved what it has, without its participants. This is a warm and heartfelt thank you from us to you, who keep discussing with us, opening our eyes to new topics, adding to the value of each and every session by providing valuable input. Thanks for criticising us, believing in us, testing us, challenging us, being loyal to us throughout the years. It is a great pleasure to be working with you – to the next 25 years of debating and shaping European health policy, to create a better future for health in Europe.
Three EHFG Presidents have thus far overseen the organisation’s work towards the ambitious goal of creating a better future for health in Europe. Founder Professor Günther Leiner was in office for fifteen years, followed by Helmut Brand, and Clemens Martin Auer who took over in 2017.
The EHFG has been run by four Secretary Generals until 2022, we asked them, what are they most proud of when looking back at their time at the Forum?
In my job as the first Secretary General, I managed to build the basis for the EHFG together with the executive committee. The first years required a tremendous effort and I am proud to say that we never ceased to believe in the idea and never thought of giving up. This has even more weight now – when looking back at 25 years of the EHFG.
Taking the EHFG to the next stage of development, by building on the achievements of my predecessors, increasing participation to new benchmark levels and developing the financial basis of the organisation. This provided the sustainable foundation for launching the Young Forum Gastein and the European Health Award, which to this date are still EHFG signature initiatives.
I always feel proud when being reminded in meetings with colleagues in Brussels and beyond that the EHFG in its 25th year is known and seen as the major European health policy event. And I am proud of the EHFG team with all their enthusiasm and never-ending ideas to keep developing the EHFG further.
The Gastein Valley draws upon nearly 200 years of experience in tourism – a lot more than most other destinations in the Alps. From the very beginning, the “Health and Wellness” aspect played a substantial part in attracting visitors. The EHFG fits in seamlessly with what the region stands for and has established itself as one of the most important events throughout the year.