The International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) is a global professional non-governmental organization dedicated to health promotion around the world. The association of individuals and institutions is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the people through education, community action and the development of healthy public policy. The Federal Association for Prevention and Health Promotion e.V. (BVPG) has been a member of the IUHPE for many years. 2021 is a jubilee for the IUHPE: The celebration of its 70th anniversary. In our interview Dr. Liane Comeau, Executive Director at the IUHPE, talks about the greatest challenges, the upcoming world conference and the just published strategic plan 2021-2026.
Ms. Comeau, congratulations – the IUHPE celebrates 70 years of advancing global health promotion this year. How do you manage to keep an organization fresh and alive for so long in turbulent times?
Thank you! It is indeed a significant milestone for our organization. My impression, as a member from 2016 to 2018 and as Executive Director since 2018, is that the global community that mobilizes around this organization is very passionate about health promotion. One manifestation of this is that many people remain engaged for a long time and in various functions (as members, Executive Board members, Global Working Group members, etc.). This helps provide continuity, and our core mission remains relevant even after all this time – to foster equity in health and well-being.
There have also been organizational changes, for example the opening of the IUHPE International Secretariat at the School of Public Health of the Université de Montréal in 2017, which was an opportunity to expand our network of members and partners and to engage in new fruitful collaborations; the development of a presence on social media; the increased use of online tools to carry out our business.
How did you react to the pandemic?
Of course, the last year and a half has shown that we can also adapt to changing times and changing priorities. It quickly became evident to us that the COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on a broad range of health inequity issues. It was important to respond by showing that health promotion, as a field, could contribute solutions.
We put out a call for papers to our journal, Global Health Promotion, along with Health Promotion international, and the response was beyond our expectations. This resulted in two double issues of our journal and there are more articles to come. We also engaged in a project with partners in African and Indian communities, demonstrating how health promotion approaches and principles such as community engagement, capacity building, risk communication and basic preventive behaviours, are relevant and valuable in the context of a health crisis.
Every three years, the IUHPE World Conferences take place. Tell us more about it.
Our World Conferences are an opportunity to approach a timely theme from a health promotion perspective. In the lead up to the 23rd IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion in Aotearoa New Zealand, during the conference, and ever since the conference, the organization has been more explicit in highlighting the role of health promotion to address what is perhaps the most important determinant of health – the state of our planet’s health. For example, the IUHPE Global Working Group on Waoira Planetary Health was created this year and we engaged with a project on grassroots efforts fostering health and planetary health. Both initiatives are led by members of our Executive Board members.
The upcoming conference next May aims to challenge current ways of thinking about policies for health, well-being and equity, for example by highlighting the opportunities presented by disruptions such as health crises.
The IUHPE is named as a Catalyst for Transformative Health Promotion Action. When you look back: What have been the greatest challenges so far, but also the greatest successes?
Addressing determinants of health in ways that have a real impact on equity is a challenge, as it calls for a systemic response that requires important commitments at various levels and across sectors. We have identified requirement for strong health promotion systems that provides a framework for this and we developing technical tools to support systemic action. As one of the requirements is a qualified work force, this framework also builds on previous successes of the organization, for example the IUHPE Global Accreditation System.
Running an accreditation system that highlights the value of the core competencies for health promotion and advocates for the recognition of these competencies is unique to our organization and we are investing time and resources to grow this system by registering qualified practitioners globally and through partners running National Accreditaton Organisations, accrediting courses of study with a health promotion focus, and offering activities – conferences, webinars, training and opportunities to engage – which promote the development of health promotion competencies. This, I feel, is an initiative that directly contributes to the development of health promotion globally.
For global active organizations, it is not always so easy to focus on regional issues or to be noticed and effective at a regional level. How do you master this task?
Regional committees are put in place and members within these regions of the world, for example North America, South West Pacific, and Africa elect a representative to IUHPE’s Executive Board who will represent their interest. There is much flexibility in the way these regional structures operate but developing work plans that align with the organization’s strategic directions while addressing local priorities can help provide coherence to the organization’s efforts.
Lately the IUHPE´s Strategic Plan 2021-2026 was developed in consultation with the IUHPE Executive Board and National Members. What´s the main content?
Our core mission has not changed in 70 years, however the challenge is to articulate it in relation to current priorities and issues in health, and to operationalize our plan for maximum impact. The current strategic plan features actions that are timely, well-defined and achievable within the proposed time frames as well as operational measure that support these actions. The most significant difference from our previous plan, however, is that the 2021-2026 strategic plan places a systems approach to health promotion as its central theme and overarching framework. This means that efforts go towards strengthening health promotion systems, which we believe is key to ensuring health and well-being sustainably and for all.
Of course, implementing plans and carrying out our mission over the years would not be possible without our global community of health promoters: our members. They operate at all levels (in individual roles as students, practitioners, researchers, active retirees; as regional, academic and national institutions) and all over the world. Our members support us, engage with us through activities such as conferences and working groups and are welcome to join us at any time. We are looking forward to gathering in Montreal in May 2022 at the upcoming IHUPE World Conference and hope you will join us, in person or online!
The questions are asked by Dr. Beate Grossmann, Managing Director of the Federal Association for Prevention and Health Promotion e.V., Germany (Bundesvereinigung Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung e.V. (BVPG).
Lesen Sie dazu auch:
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Dr. Liane Comeau | is, since April 2018, the Executive Director of the International Union for Health Promotion and Health Education (IUHPE). She has worked in a pan-Canadian NGO, Invest in Kids, as Director of Research and Evaluation, and as Specialized Scientific Advisor at the “Institut national de santé publique du Québec” (INSPQ), focusing on health promotion initiatives targeting children, adolescents and families. Liane Comeau holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from McGill University. She has published scientific papers on various topics and co-authored several reports on policy-relevant topics while at the INSPQ.
The International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) is a global professional non-governmental organization dedicated to health promotion around the world. For 70 years, the IUHPE has operated as an independent, global and professional network of people and institutions committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the people through education, community action and the development of healthy public policy. The IUHPE supports actions that empower people to control their own health and that promote healthy societies.