Wales has been actively involved in WHO Europe’s Regions for Health Network (RHN) for a number of years. Membership of the network provides valuable opportunities to build relationships with a range of different regions and countries within the WHO Europe Region, with a view both to sharing information about work in Wales and learning from the experiences of other parts of Europe.
As part of its work programme the RHN organises a study visit hosted by a different member of the network each year. This year’s event was hosted by Andalusia and held in Seville, Spain on 12-14 November. Wales was represented at the visit by Nicola Evans and Rhodri Jones of the Welsh Government’s Public Health Division.
The main purpose of the study visit was to learn more about the structuring and management of the public health system in Andalusia, which is guided by an overarching Andalusian Health Plan and supplemented by an impressive tier of local and topic-specific delivery plans. The organisers put together a varied programme of sessions and events, covering topics which are highly relevant to Wales – these included a session about Andalusia’s approach to health impact assessment legislation, a visit to a multidisciplinary “health centre”, and detail about Andalusia’s approaches to community health assets which have parallels to the social prescribing agenda in Wales. It was a packed two days but the organisers still found the time to include a visit to the memorable Alcázar of Seville!
It was clear from the visit that Wales has a great deal of common ground with Andalusia in our ambitions for our public health systems, as well as in some of the structures and policy approaches being put in place for improving and protecting the health and well-being of our respective populations. In particular, Andalusia’s health plan has a strong focus on delivering ‘Health in All Policies’ and reducing health inequalities in the region – two issues at the forefront of the public health agenda in Wales.
As well as learning about Andalusia, the visit was very helpful in finding out more about similarities in public health approaches with other regions within the network, as well as highlighting some key differences.
The visit provided a memorable opportunity to visit another public health system with similar ambitions and priorities to Wales. It also allowed Wales to maintain its close engagement with the RHN and to continue to develop relationships with colleagues in regions which are well-established within the network (such as Norway and Flanders in Belgium), as well as meet new members (such as Utrecht in the Netherlands).
Details about plans for the 2019 RHN study visit will be shared once these are available next year.