One Face to Face Meeting, One Topic – Experiences from the SDC Health Network

July 24, 2012 | LND | SDC Networks |


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How many topics should a face-to-face meeting put on the agenda? The participants of the SDC Health network explored during their 2nd face-to-face meeting one topic: Health Promotion. With this decision for one key discussion topic the meeting had a clear focus; this allowed for in-depth discussions.


By Debora Kern, Andreas Loebell and Luca Fasnacht

The network Health was meeting from June 24–28 in Jongny, above the lake of Geneva in Switzerland for its 2nd face-to-face meeting. The 3.5-days discussion was dedicated to one topic: Health Promotion. It was our choice to challenge the network members with this one topic; a topic that receives more attention nowadays in global and local discussions on social determinants of health and the fight of non communicable diseases. This is relevant for SDC:

  • The concept of health promotion puts equity very much in the centre. Equity in health is – as we all know – an issue which did not improve as most of the other health indicators globally but is deteriorating. We have all the mandate to correct this development as soon as possible and we believe that the health promotion concept could contribute to this development.
  • Health promotion puts “health and wellbeing” and not a specific disease in the centre. In that sense it promotes health and does at the same time prevent from ill cases in a comprehensive way. We think this preventable way is the most cost-efficient way to deal with health costs – be it in low and high resource settings.
  • Health promotion puts the human actor at the center and not the system. It is of utmost importance to be conscious who our beneficiaries are. Our overall goal shall be a better health status of the population and not a better performing health system as such. The latter is an instrument to reach the first one. The concept of health promotion is focusing on people, enables them through empowerment, uses the resources at disposal and changes in that sense the health situation of the people in an equitable way.

We learned our lessons from the first face-to-face meeting in 2010 with a programme that was too loaded with conflicting and confusing messages on the role of the network. It was therefore obvious, that the 2nd meeting should:

  • focus again on one key topic;
  • be steered more proactively by the Focal Points;
  • invite National Programme Officers and the SDC Cooperation Offices to bring in, share and discuss their experiences and their perspectives.

We designed this meeting as a theoretical and practical introduction into health promotion in the context of SDC’s programmes. The first three days we focused on internal and external expertises from different background giving us food for thought. This diversity of voices and perspectives was wanted. The approach of Health Promotion was not very prominent during the last years in SDC. Valuable experiences have been made in Tajikistan, Mozambique and Tanzania and Kirgizstan.

Day 1: we familiarised us with the concept of health promotion, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as well as the related political declarations, the link between health promotion to social determinants of health and non communicable diseases, the current debate and stakeholders, the Swiss experiences.

Day 2: we went into practice. The three NPOs from Tajikistan, Mozambique and Tanzania were presenting their health promotion projects.

After dinner we joined the local gym club. Dressed in sportswear we participated in their weekly training and got a physical impression what the villagers of Chardonne are doing for their health. This was fun and the network spirit was high.

Day 3: we touched ground in the nearby city of Lausanne with Radix and Health Promotion Switzerland (two foundations) and the delegates for Health Promotion of the Canton of Vaud and Jura. Our three hosts are engaged promoting healthy behaviours and habits among the population.

Day 4: was dedicated on the follow-up: what does this all mean to us and the network; and what should happen next?

In retrospective we can summarise self-critically that the “one face to face – one topic rule” was a ‘healthy’ choice:

  • It made the programme flow: We were immersed into one topic. All workshop conversations were turning around Health Promotion. We looked at it from different angles and we developed step-by-step our joint understanding.
  • It made network members think: We were challenged by this topic, new to quite a number of network members. We were stimulated by the various inputs, we worked our brains, we compared, questioned, reasoned. Our thirst for new knowledge was satisfied.
  • It made the network move: As a network we were moved in a triple sense: Mentally, socially and physically. The discussions were rich and engaged. There was loud and engaged bubble to hear during the sessions and also during the breaks and social evening excursions. There was enough time and space for the network members to connect to each other and continue their exchanges in informal way. And we were moving our bodies.
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