Promoting health through culture: the first international task force starts in Turin

Almost 40 years after the Ottawa Charter, the International Network of Hospitals for Health Promotion and Health Services (HPH) aims at people's well-being through cultural welfare

It will be the first international task force to promote and study the impact of culture on health: it was launched in Turin in early June, as part of the event entitled ‘Culture as a resource for health. Health & Culture – The other dimension of care’. «The Piedmontese HPH Network proposed to the international network the creation of an HPH Network task force on Health and Culture, which was approved by the general assembly on 17 May, at the same time as a second, central one on the wellbeing of health professionals, which will also be Italian-led», explains Giuseppina Viola, Communication and Training contact person for the HPH Network Italy.

The HPH Network was founded by the WHO in 1988 to guide health organisations: it promotes and disseminates internationally recognised principles, recommendations and standards for hospitals and territorial health services, based on the principles of Health Promotion defined in the Ottawa Charter (1986) and subsequent documents.

The task force on Health and Culture will constitute an international point of reference for the International HPH Network

«The task forces of the Network are a reference for technical, organisational and scientific support on the promotion of Health – says Viola -. In this case, starting from the strong experience of projects developed in Piedmont in alliance and collaboration between the worlds of Culture and Health, and from the reports that emerged from a recent national research that we conducted as a network, we are comparing ourselves with the members of the international HPH network. The international HPH task force is therefore a leap of scale for actions that can respond to standards, with targeted expertise in medical humanities, evaluative research, be replicable and enter permanently into treatment and prevention protocols».

The study day, organised by the Piedmontese HPH Network – Health Promoting Hospitals & Health Services, with the Italian and international HPH Networks, in collaboration with CCW-Cultural Welfare Centre, saw the participation of national and international experts to debate and document the commitment to search for new paths to health, quality and dignity of life for people, recognising the value attested by a growing body of evidence and WHO policy recommendations of cultural languages and practices.

Oliver Gröne

Oliver Gröne, CEO of the International Secretariat of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services, also participated remotely, and Trendsanità interviewed him about the HPH network and the relationship between culture and health.

Gröne is also Vice Chairman of the Board at OptiMedis AG, a management company that designs, implements and evaluates Accountable Care Systems in order to improve health, care experience, and lower costs. He is appointed Professor at the Faculty of Management, Economics and Society at the University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany.

What is the International HPH Network?

«The International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services (HPH) is a global initiative that aims to enhance the role of hospitals and health services in promoting health, preventing disease, and improving the quality of healthcare. The network was established under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and focuses on integrating health promotion into the culture, organizational structure, and everyday activities of hospitals and healthcare services.

The International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services (HPH) comprises a diverse range of members, including hospitals, health services, health systems, and other healthcare-related institutions committed to integrating health promotion into their operations. These members come from various countries and regions around the world. In total, the membership comprises 30 networks, 21 countries and almost 600 different health care institutions (hospitals, practices etc).

What is the importance of the task force launched in Turin?

«With the HPH network, Task Forces are issue-specific teams with specific expertise within the framework of the general aims of the International HPH Network. They work according to terms of references and related action plans and constitute a reference for technical, organizational, and scientific support for specific issues of health promotion. Existing task forces cover areas such as Migration, Equity & Diversity, the environmental impact of health care, age-Friendly Health Care, specific needs of children and adolescents, or the built environment.

Two new task forces were recently established: a task force on health care workers health and well-being, and a task force on culture and health. The recently established taskforce on culture and health will serve an international point of reference for the International HPH Network and beyond, synthesizing evidence, proposing standards and identifying best practice examples. It is therefore a very important initiative».

What is the link between the health promotion and the culture?

«There is an integral link between health promotion and culture. Culture encompasses the beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors of a particular group of people, influencing their health behaviors and attitudes towards health and illness. Health promotion aims to improve health and well-being by encouraging healthy behaviors and creating supportive environments. Health promotion can not be effective without considering and respecting cultural contexts!

Using culturally appropriate language and communication methods can enhance understanding and engagement, ensuring that health messages resonate with the target audience

Cultural beliefs and practices shape how individuals perceive health, illness, and healthcare. For instance, some cultures may prioritize traditional medicine over modern medical practices, influencing their willingness to seek conventional healthcare services. Health promotion efforts that align with these cultural practices are more likely to be accepted and adopted by the community.

Moreover, language and communication styles vary across cultures, impacting the delivery and reception of health promotion messages. Using culturally appropriate language and communication methods can enhance understanding and engagement, ensuring that health messages resonate with the target audience. Additionally, cultural norms and values influence behaviors such as diet, physical activity, and social interactions, all of which are critical areas for health promotion».

What is the expected impact of the task force?

«The understanding of the relationship between culture and health is currently limited in many health systems. The task force will raise awareness on the importance of this topic for our members, through international conferences and advocacy. This way, by raising awareness and understanding the relationship between culture and health, health promotion leaders can design interventions that are more relevant and effective, and also train others that are working in this field. Cultural competence among healthcare providers is crucial. Providers who understand and respect their patients’ cultural backgrounds can build stronger relationships, foster trust, and improve patient outcomes. This cultural sensitivity helps in tailoring health promotion activities to meet the unique needs of diverse populations. These issues are already addressed in our standards, however, more work is needed to promote ideas and implementation».

Why the patient empowerment is important?

«Patient empowerment is a critical aspect of modern healthcare, emphasizing the active role of patients in managing their health and healthcare decisions. The importance of patient empowerment can be understood through several key points. Patient empowerment leads to improved health outcomes. Empowered patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, take medications as prescribed, and attend follow-up appointments, resulting in better health outcomes. Additionally, those knowledgeable about their conditions can effectively manage symptoms, monitor their health, and make lifestyle changes that improve their overall well-being. Enhanced patient satisfaction is another significant benefit of patient empowerment. Patients involved in their healthcare decisions feel a greater sense of control and autonomy, leading to increased satisfaction with their care. They are also more likely to communicate openly with their healthcare providers, ask questions, and express concerns, resulting in more personalized and effective care.

Patient empowerment is a critical aspect of modern healthcare

Increased health literacy is a crucial component of patient empowerment. Empowered patients are better educated about their health conditions, treatment options, and the healthcare system. This increased knowledge helps them make informed decisions and navigate the healthcare system more effectively. With greater health literacy, patients can critically evaluate information, weigh the risks and benefits of different treatment options, and make decisions that align with their values and preferences. Patient empowerment also contributes to cost-effective care. Patients who effectively manage their health are less likely to experience complications that require hospitalizations or emergency room visits, reducing overall healthcare costs. Empowered patients use healthcare resources more efficiently, opting for preventive care and timely interventions rather than waiting until their conditions worsen.

Healthcare systems and providers can support patient empowerment through various strategies. Providing clear, accessible, and reliable information about health conditions, treatments, and healthy living is essential. Offering resources such as patient support groups, counseling services, and health coaches can also make a significant difference. Encouraging collaborative decision-making processes where patients and providers work together to determine the best course of action is crucial. Utilizing digital health tools, such as patient portals, mobile apps, and telehealth services, can give patients more control over their health information and care».

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Michela Perrone
Giornalista pubblicista