Investing in integrated social, care and health services promotes society’s well-being

7 April was World Health Day. This year the World Health Organisation is running a campaign on depression. Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds.

Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Prevention is not only key concerning depression, but more broadly for all social and health issues an individual may be confronted with at a certain stage of his or her life. In our work on investing in services, together with our members and their national members, we have developed some interesting case studies on (integrated) social, care and health services.

One successful practice which is worth mentioning is the “Life Long Living Programme” set up in 2008 by the municipality of Fredericia in Denmark. The aim of this initiative is to deal with the challenges of an ageing population and the expected increase of spending in care services by replacing a system based on passive service delivery and compensatory care with one driven by the concept of “re-enabling” care.

The Life Long Living Programme helps and trains older people so that they can regain their autonomy to perform various daily tasks such as cleaning, dressing, shopping, cooking, watering flowers, taking a bath, enjoying leisure activities or socialising with friends and family. Thanks to this support, they gain confidence in their own capacity to live autonomously and remain active in society. Little by little, older people increase their physical abilities and start coping on their own or with less.

The greatest achievement of this new approach is the satisfaction of older people in the municipality. According to an evaluation of the programme, 84.8 % of the beneficiaries have improved their quality of life, with 45.9 % of them being completely empowered and becoming able to live an independent
life again, and 38.9 % of them needing less help than previously required.

Another interesting experience is the one of NoRo Centre in Romania, a resource centre whose objective is to provide integrated social and care services to people affected by rare diseases and their families through improving access to care, information, research, and education. Participation is a guiding principle of the project. The Centre holds regular meetings with people who rely on their services and their families to discuss potential improvements. They are involved at all stages of the process, from planning to implementation. Every patient has the chance to fill in a questionnaire about the quality of services provided. Moreover, the managing board consists of seven people living with rare diseases and family members, which guarantees that every decision takes into account service users’ concerns. The activities undertaken by the project are meant to empower people and strengthen their skills and capacity. The objective is to enable them to fully participate in community life and advocate for their fundamental rights; for example, through access to therapists who conduct home visits to families in order to help parents to continue caring for their children.

Other promising practices are the Humanitarian Health Consultation Centre that was set up in Frankfurt as a support service for undocumented pregnant women, and the Healthy Communities project and Health Mediation programme in Slovakia and Bulgaria respectively. With the help of Health Mediators belonging to Roma communities, these latter two initiatives provide a systemic solution to the alarming state of health and social conditions of disadvantaged groups in those countries.

Prevention, integrated approaches, involvement and empowerment of users are three essential elements to improve the quality and delivery of health services in the EU. Find out more about this approach, known as ‘social investment’, on our website.