On the 6th and 7th of December eMEN was presented on both days of the final conference of the ‘European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds for Health’ project. This project focuses on identifying health related projects financed by the European Structural and Investment funds in the 2014-2020 spending period. How can the experience gained in this period contribute to better inclusion of health issues in the next Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF)? As demand for health care is rising in all Member States it will become more important to mobilise these funds for projects focusing on keeping health care affordable and accessible for all EU citizens.
The conference was opened by the Director of DG Health and Food Safety, Andrzej Rys and the Director of the Emilia Romagna Region Delegation to the EU, Lorenza Badiello. Andrzej Rys spoke about the difficulty of dealing with different national and regional health systems and the importance of including a more specific health objective in the next funding period. Health is at this moment a non-specific objective and projects are currently submitted under topics such as innovation, social inclusion and ICT.
Keynote speaker Sylvain Giraud, head of the ‘Health Systems’ unit of DG Health and Food Safety spoke of the importance of cooperation and the effectiveness, accessibility and sustainability of health care systems. He was followed up by Rosa Castro, the project manager of the ESI Funds for Health project, who presented the final project results, as well as how the project was designed. She explained that we need strong institutions in order to make better use of the ESI Funds. After this presentation four projects were presented, including the eMEN project.
eMEN project leader Oyono Vlijter explained why and how the project was developed and emphasized the importance of more investment in mental health, and in e-mental health in particular. He also talked about the importance of mobilising the mental health care sector for the ESI Funds, as this sector is not well represented in the number of projects. The sector should also take the lead in the transition towards e-mental health (‘blended care’); Amazon, Facebook and Google are already positioning themselves as strong competitors for the mental health care sector. Other projects presented were ‘Proximity Healthcare Units’ (Portugal), ConSENSO (Italy), and Mental Health Care Reform (Czech Republic). The project panel received many questions from the audience, including those related to the application process, stakeholders involved and sustainability of the results. The eMEN Work Package Long Term was especially important for the latter.
Day one was closed with a high level panel which included the European Commission for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis; Riina Sikket, Minister of Health and Labour from Estonia; Sorina Pintea, Minister of Health from Romania; Andrey Kovatchev, Member of the European Parliament; Tomislav Dulibić, State Secretary from Croatia; Jenny Macheva, Deputy Minister of Health from Bulgaria; and Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki, Director-General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in Finland. The European Commissioner spoke about growing inequalities and the importance of embedding health in other policies, as it is cross-sectorial by nature. He also talked about the importance of the need for more preventive health care and structurally including health in the European Semester. The other participants in the high level panel presented developments in their countries and addressed issues such as health and employment, eHealth, cross-sector and cross-border cooperation, ageing of the population and combining ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ investments.
After the high-level panel eMEN project leader Oyono Vlijter had a chance to talk with the European Commissioner about the eMEN project and the importance of allocating more structural and investment funds to health care. It was a great opportunity to present our project on such a high level!
One day two of the conference there were several parallel sessions on various topics such as ‘access to healthcare and health promotion’, ‘research and innovation in health and the health workforce’ and ‘eHealth and reform of health systems’. The eMEN project was presented in the latter session by Oyono Vlijter who also participated in a panel at this session. The eMEN project received a lot of positive reactions. The audience was impressed by the multidisciplinary approach and the fact that we are addressing the implementation barriers with an holistic approach. eMEN is one of the few ESI projects addressing mental health and, so far, the only e-mental health project funded by these funds.
This conference was a excellent opportunity to further develop the network for disseminating our European policy recommendation for the implementation of e-mental health.
The ESI Funds for Health project identified 7404 health-related projects between 2016-2018 which were co-financed by the ESI Funds with a total amount of 8 billion euros – a relatively small amount considering the total budget of 638 billion euro for the Structural and Investment funds for 2014-2020. eMEN was selected as one of the 60 good example projects that have been selected for ESI Funds for Health database. eMEN was also presented in September at an ESIF workshop in Budapest.