Countering shockwaves and fatigue

The European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) was held for the 26th time this year, with “Health systems in crisis – countering shockwaves and fatigue” as its main topic. The EHFG 2023 gathered over 160 speakers, spanning the World Health Organization, European Commission, country officials, industry representatives, healthcare professionals, and civil society actors.

The European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG), Europe’s most important health policy conference, was held in the Gastein Valley for the 26th time this year – and for the second time as a hybrid event. “Health systems in crisis – countering shockwaves and fatigue” was the broad theme which set the scene for forward-looking and solution-oriented discussions. Ministers and high-level representatives from European Union Member States as well as from the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the European Parliament agreed that in order to truly address the health system crisis, co-create healthier societies, and ride out the current shockwaves, stakeholders in health must prevent the cornerstones of our systems from crumbling, and fashion long-term sustainable solutions that support health and well-being. 

Experts examined best practice examples for making our healthcare systems greener, reviewed the promise of AI tools to help provide safe and resource-efficient care, debated the ongoing review of the EU Pharmaceutical Strategy, and reaffirmed the necessity to build health systems that will not only withstand shocks, but have the flexibility to anticipate, adapt, and respond to emerging crises. 

Safeguarding people-centered welfare systems

In the final conference plenary, key stakeholders considered the measures needed to ensure the ongoing sustainability and safeguarding of people-centered social security and welfare systems. “Let’s build a European Social Union, a union of national welfare states, accompanying changes and offering systemic support” said Frank Vandenbroucke, Minister of Health and Social Affairs, Belgium. “The upcoming Belgian Presidency of the Council comes at a crucial time: social and public health priorities are an asset for a thriving society and should remain on top of the next European strategic agenda, building on the European Pillar of Social Rights.”

What makes Europe unique is our spirit of solidarity.

Portrait of Clemens Martin Auer
Clemens Martin Auer, Photo: EHFG

Sara Cerdas, Member of the Europan Parliament, advocated for welfare systems that are sustainable, green, and person-centered. “In recent times our welfare systems have been confronted with health, environmental, and economic crises. Our common response should be based on solidarity, not austerity. It is crucial to promote sustainable, person-centered welfare states, ensure better access to healthcare, reduce social and health inequalities.” Reflecting on the final plenary, Clemens Martin Auer, President of the EHFG, said: “What makes Europe unique is our spirit of solidarity. Solidarity is embedded in our European soul, law and social code. It is empowerment through social rights. We need to consider how to secure suitable resources to preserve our solidarity systems.” 

Fighting Fatigue Together

The European Health Leadership Award (EHLA) 2023, which sought to identify a grassroot initiative working to build more sustainable and shock-proof health systems in Europe, was awarded to Fighting Fatigue Together. The network of healthcare organisations, who work on European, national, and local levels, were brought together by the European Patient Safety Foundation and campaign for the well-being and safety of healthcare workers. EHFG 2023 plenary and session recordings can be found here and photographs here. The European Health Forum Gastein 2024 will take place from September 24 – 27 in Bad Hofgastein, Austria & online.   

About European Health Forum Gastein

The European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) was founded in 1998 as a European health policy conference. It aims to provide a platform for all stakeholders from the fields of public health and beyond. Over the past 25 years, the EHFG has established itself as an indispensable institution in the scope of European health policy. With its annual conference and other events and projects, it has made a decisive contribution to the development of guidelines and above all the cross-border exchange of experience, information, and cooperation. Leading European experts traditionally participate in the annual conference held in the Gastein Valley in the Austrian Alps in late September.