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Health has been gaining a key role in most developed countries over the last years – a phenomenon framed as the “health society” by Ilona Kickbusch, doyenne of the health promotion movement, and others. There is mounting evidence justifying such a description: Mass media coverage and communication about health have significantly risen over the past decades, covering not only medicine and health care in general, but also prevention, positive health, fitness, wellness and health promotion, allowing for a wide access to health related information. Together with the demographic and epidemiological developments towards longevity and chronic diseases, this results in an increased relevance of maintaining and improving health in daily life – which becomes visible in lifestyle and shopping choices, in the utilisation of wellness resorts and health services. The so-called first and second health markets are booming, so that health is increasingly becoming a driving force for economic growth, by some seen as the 6 th Kondratieff cycle. On a political level, these developments are mirrored by the emergence of a broader approach towards health: “Health in all policies” is high on the European agenda since the Finnish EU presidency in 2006.

What consequences can be expected for hospitals and health services? On the one hand, epidemiological and demographic developments, together with medical progress, will guarantee an increasing attention for treatment and care. On the other hand, the “health society” appears ambiguous: While service providers with a strong focus on client orientation and attractive services for well-off clients may easily profit, others may find themselves left in charge of dealing with the unattractive problems of the poor, the old, the severely ill, multimorbid and dying patients. The gap between the professional doability of health and the constrained public finances is widening. Consequently, questions concerning inequalities in health and the accessibility of services are gaining new momentum, leaving health care providers in the need to further develop or even reposition themselves if they want to benefit from the health society in a socially responsible way.

How can HPH react to these developments? What alternatives for development and reorientation can the movement offer to owners, management and staff of hospitals and health services, from a health promotion perspective? How can patients, patient organisations and advocates utilise the health society to push for a patient-centred health service? How can community representatives influence health service development towards health promotion, empowerment, capacity building, cultural appropriateness and equity? Which health policy frameworks are needed to support such developments? The HPH conference 2008 will discuss these questions around four topics:

•••• Quo vadis, HPH: Health promotion by re-orienting core business or by expanding into new services - or by both?
•••• Improving patient orientation: Safety, clinical evidence, cultural appropriateness
•••• Improving staff orientation: The challenge of an ageing workforce
•••• Improving community and public health orientation: Sustainability and corporate social responsibility

For information on program elements and conference target groups, please click on the links.

Kickbusch and others argue that health services, under conditions of the health society, may find themselves increasingly competing with other players on the health market. In order to position themselves in this new arena, they may need to orient their future developments not only at traditional drivers like medical-technological change, demographic and epidemiological trends, demands for effectiveness and efficiency, but increasingly also at patients' needs and expectations for contributions to public health. How can HPH take up the challenge – and benefit from the chances – of the health society? How can hospitals and health services understand and implement Ilona Kickbusch's recommendation of a “critical role change”?

There are two basic options: Health services can either compete by integrating health promotion principles like participation, empowerment, equity, and sustainability into their clinical core services and, by that, increase the somato-psycho-social health gain of their patients, staff, and community members. This would also include controversial issues like the reduction of unnecessary services and hospitalism. The second option is to expand into new fields, thus offering additional – and potentially lucrative – health promoting clinical, information and training services to clients. The decision on which option to take up – or how to find an adequate mix – may differ between types of health service providers, health systems, countries and regions, and will depend on expectations and demands from health policy, financiers, patients, and staff. The conference will discuss the pro's and con's of the different options from a health promotion perspective, and against the background of the different conditions in the European countries.

(Potential) patients in the health society are becoming increasingly aware of the quality and environment of service provision. They are expecting not only clinical excellence and safety, but increasingly also empowering information provision and participative involvement in treatment-related decisions. Many clients demand for individualised services and an environment that considers their personal preferences and supports their quality of life and well-being, and they expect support also for their partners and relatives. This opens a wide range of options for health promotion interventions, many of which have been touched upon in past HPH conferences. In 2008, three issues will be highlighted exemplarily:
•••• Interlinks of HPH with the current WHO strategy “Strengthened health systems save more lives”, especially also implications for aspects of patient and clinical safety;
•••• Needs and options to implement evidence based health promotion interventions in clinical core processes in order to improve clinical outcomes
•••• Needs and options for providing culturally appropriate services in an increasingly globalised and diverse world

In the health society, the awareness for the health impact of work is rising: Demands for fair, acceptable and healthy working conditions, including chances for a better work-life balance, are getting more prominent among the workforce. Hospitals with their predominantly high-risk working places are faced with these changing expectations at a time when they are pressured for further work acceleration and rationalisation, not at least by the increasing need for care, which is due to changes in demography and epidemiology. At the same time, the increasing attention for the negative impacts of distress in healthcare staff on the quality of care and on patient safety are further supporting the need for workplace health promotion in health care – a need that is even stronger underpinned by the increasing shortages in healthcare staff in many countries, and by the ageing of health care staff: Already now, more than 20% of staff are aged 50+ in some European countries. The 2008 conference will discuss the impact of the demographic developments on the health care workforce and options for adapting workplaces in health care to the needs of older staff – which is also a precondition to be able to profit from their competence and experience and to retain qualified staff.

Discussing the impacts of the health society draws our attention not only to health as an individual and purchasable phenomenon, but also to the health impacts of societal functioning at large and the wider health determinants. From an HPH perspective, this means to interlink health promotion with other major trends like ecology and sustainability. For health services, this brings about an increased awareness of the ecological dimensions of energy consumption, emissions, waste, traffic management, purchasing goods and supplies, and the design of buildings and gardens. The conference will focus on options for the orientation of single health care organisations and the overall health sector towards sustainability, environment-friendliness and corporate social responsibility, which may also support the survival of health care organisations in an increasingly competitive health market.

Conference topics will be presented and discussed in

•••• Plenary sessions: Each main conference topic will be featured in a plenary session. These consist of keynote lectures and panel discussions.
•••• Educational workshops: Workshops on selected HPH issues will be organised as part of the parallel session program to support education and training of participants.
•••• Paper sessions: As usual, paper sessions will be composed from papers received and accepted by the Scientific Committee. The standard length of presentation will be 15' time for presentation. There will be space for a maximum of 80 oral presentations. Further information about how to submit your paper is available in the call for papers.
•••• Electronic poster sessions: For the first time, the format of “electronic poster presentations” will be tested at an HPH conference. Participants whose abstract is accepted for poster presentation by the Scientific Committee will not need to bring a printed poster: A pre-delivered PDF file will be sufficient. There will be space for max. 140 electronic poster presentations, which will be grouped into thematic and guided sessions. The presence of the poster submitter will be required. Further information about how to submit your paper is available in the call for papers.

The conference provides a forum for exchange and further development of knowledge and experiences for the following target groups:

•••• Health care professionals from the medical, nursing and therapeutic fields;
•••• Hospital and health care managers;
•••• Representatives from patient organisations and other NGOs;
•••• Representatives from health policy and health administration;
•••• Public health actors and experts;
•••• Health and health promotion scientists and practitioners; and
•••• Health care consultants.


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