In December last year, the European Commission published the Expert Panel opinion on the organisation of resilient health and social care following the COVID-19 pandemic. The opinion covers four areas: identifying the building blocks of resilient health and social care systems, exploring the elements and conditions for capacity building to strengthen health system resilience, addressing healthcare provision for vulnerable patient groups and how to sustain such provision in a system under stress, and setting out an approach to develop and implement “resilience tests” of Member State’s health systems.
When looking at the importance of addressing healthcare provisions for vulnerable patient groups, the expert panel states that the pandemic disproportionally affects the vulnerable groups such as the old and frail, the poor, and members of minority ethnic groups. Subsequently, they recommend that to reduce this vulnerability: “primary care services should be supported and healthcare professionals, community health workers and informal caregivers should be motivated to focus more on health promotion, lifestyle programs and intersectoral collaborative actions to increase health equity and resilience in the community. The exploitation of existing European health promotion projects could enhance this effort.”
An indispensable part of the increased focus on health promotion and lifestyle programmes should be the promotion of physical activity. The recently updated physical activity guidelines from the WHO are very clear about the fact that ‘every move counts’, and that the biggest health benefits are achieved when people who are currently physically inactive become active. As highlighted in the recommendation of the expert panel, this should be done via an intersectoral approach, bringing together people from different sectors who have the right skill set to make sure that vulnerable groups get the support and care that they need.
Through its involvement in the Erasmus+ funded action New Health 2022, EuropeActive is already actively implementing the expert panel’s recommendation. One of the key tasks of this action was the production of a Healthy Lifestyle Promoter qualification. The main role of the ‘Healthy Lifestyle Promoter’ will be to inform individuals and communities on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to signpost those individuals to evidence-based recommendations and credible sources of information related to a healthy lifestyle.