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Healthy Cities 21st Century

Belfast Healthy City Explorer Travel Bursary Blog: Part One

Healthy City Explorer Award

First Impressions of Health Reform in Norway

This year, to celebrate 25 years as a healthy city, Belfast Healthy Cities launched the Healthy City Annual Bursary award to support a study visit to a European Healthy City or Network. The inaugural award was made to Anne McNally, DHSSPS, who is currently visiting Oslo to study public health legislation.

While in Norway, Anne has agreed to share some personal thoughts on the trip through this blog. She will present a full report of her finding later in the year at the Belfast Healthy Cities Annual General Meeting.

"In 2013, the Northern Ireland Minister for Health, Edwin Poots, commissioned a review of NI's Public Health Act, which dates back to 1967, in order to examine whether the legislation remains fit for purpose and to put forward proposals for amendments or new legislation should the current Act be found to be deficient. This review links to Phase VI of the Healthy Cities network goals: "strengthening people-centred health systems and public health capacity", with one of the main priority areas from this theme being to revitalise and strengthen public health capacity through e.g. reviewing and adapting public health legislation. I chose Oslo as my destination as they recently introduced a new Public Health Act, the purpose of which is to "contribute to societal development that promotes public health and reduces social inequalities in health. Public health work shall promote the population's health, wellbeing and good social and environmental conditions, and contribute to the prevention of mental and somatic illnesses, disorders or injuries"

There are clear links to this aspiration and the two overarching goals of the WHO European policy framework, Health 2020 of:

  • improving health for all and reducing health inequities; and
  • improving leadership and participatory governance for health.

My main objectives for the study visit were to gather information on the implementation of the Act since its inception in January 2012 and to identify how useful a tool the Act has been in establishing Health in All Policies and what learning from the Norwegian experience can be taken back to the review team in NI. To facilitate my visit, Ragnhild Spigseth arranged a series of meetings and presentations with colleagues from the Ministry of Health and Care Services, the Directorate of Health and Healthy Cities Norway.

I have been welcomed to my visit by the Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Bjorn-Inge Larsen and had meetings with the Head of the Department of Public Health, Geir Steine-Larsen as well as a number of his colleagues, who have explained their role in the Ministry, including how they see the Public Health Act supplementing and progressing their work in, among other things, health inequities; physical inactivity; food safety and noncommunicable diseases.

I have also met with colleagues in the Directorate of Health who are responsible for implementation of the Act to hear of their experiences of using it to equip municipalities with the right tools to implement legislation successfully at local level.

Finally today, I met with Arstein Skjaeveland, Norway's Healthy Cities national coordinator, who explained how the Act has validated the work they are already undertaking and stressed the importance of attaining political support for the principle of Health in All Policies.

Activities planned over the next few days include attending a seminar on an upcoming White Paper on public health, hosted by the Minister and later in the week I will meet the Mayor of Oppegard who is the current Chair of Healthy Cities Norway."

Read part two of Anne's blog