EuPrevent is a Euroregional network that focuses on promoting health in the Euroregions like the Euroregion of Meuse-Rhine (EMR). In the EMR euPrevent has a network of 36 structural partners (public health organisations, universities, hospitals etc.) who collaborate within a framework of projects and programmes intended to improve the health of EMR citizens.
It began around 2000, when professionals in the field of preventative health care realised that the cross-border population (in particular, young people and adolescents) were exhibiting unhealthy behaviour with regard to the use of alcohol and drugs. In 2001, the project ‘High-Risk Behaviour of Adolescents’ was launched. This was the first concrete initiative of the network, and the structural partners continue to work together on this topic today. The network continued to grow: including more organizations, facing further health related topics and covering more EMR target groups.
The euPrevent network is currently implemented through 7 programmes:
- Addiction: addressing addictive behaviours (gambling, gaming) and substance abuse (drugs, tobacco, alcohol), implementing different activities ranging from cross-border research to policy advice;
- Crossing Programmes: reinforcing and encouraging cooperation between partners. Shared projects and collect-and-compare data at a Euroregional level are examples of types of interventions financed;
- Environmental health: exploring the relationships between public health and the environment;
- Infectious Diseases: focusing on resistant pathogens (hospital bacteria, hygienic measures etc.), developing expertise and research into preventing them;
- Mental Health: intending to improve the prevention and treatment of mental disorders among various target groups;
- Obesity: promoting healthier habits through diet and exercise;
- Patient Empowerment: developing instruments to promote the participation of patients and citizens in monitoring their rights and obligations with regards to cross-border care.
The focus of euPrevent in the EMR lies on:
• the Flemish province Limburg
• the Walloon province Liege
• the German-speaking community
• the western part of the Regierungsbezirk Köln (North Rhine-Westphalia area)
In the Netherlands:
• the southern part of the province Limburg
In terms of management and organisation arrangements, the healthcare services are provided at local level, with the partners using the existing structures and facilities in their territories. The euPrevent foundation was formed in 2010 to support the network efficiently and ensure a sustainable and shared long-term vision. The executive board is made up of executives and experts from different regions and is responsible for supervising and coordinating the programmes. The euPrevent’s support office provides assistance in pursuing the mission of the network and improving the quality of life of EMR residents.
The network operates with a bottom-up approach; citizens’ participation is encouraged through citizens’ organizations, self-help groups and patients’ associations. They all play an active role in projects (e.g. The Citizens’ Council that is actively consulted during a project) and they are often asked for their vision and their ideas during participatory initiatives (for example the Citizens Summits). euPrevent also develops new knowledge through studies, thus contributing to the availability of comparable Euregional data.
The euPrevent shares the results of programmes and projects in several ways in order to encourage sustainable impact:
- Publicationsà They provide detailed information about the studies conducted in the region. They include survey results (e.g. The Euroregional Health Survey), guidelines for the prevention of diseases in cross-border settings, tools to help municipalities formulate their policies and to alert them about necessary changes (such as operational setbacks including time, personnel, and money).
- Online toolsà The euPrevent has developed 4 online tools. These offer insights about municipal policies, provide guidelines and checklists, and set criteria for the quality of existing school-based interventions. They also collect new ideas, and offer suggestions and techniques to help schools develop their policies by providing benchmark examples. More generally, these tools are used by local authorities and communities to explore project management and policy implementation options on several health-related issues.
- Euroregional Health Atlasà A platform for collecting, sharing and creating knowledge on residents of the EMR region. It contributes to mutual understanding and cross-border policy development, providing reliable statistics, figures and information about the health and well-being of inhabitants.
The added value of the network and institutions was particularly evident during the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to the already established disease control network, it was easier to connect and manage the crisis between countries. A concrete result was the quick response to emergencies, such as authorisations allowing people to continue cross-border travel to take care of their relatives. This reduced the burden on health professionals. The network also contributed to efficiently managing the logistics for testing and tracking positive cases in the EMR region.