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See health network successful forum for promoting public health.

With its appointment as a host country of the Secretariat of the South-Eastern Europe Health Network (SEEHN), the Republic of Macedonia has become the leader of the regional health cooperation and committed to strengthening institutional and organizational capacities for regional cooperation in Southeast Europe. The health network of Southeast Europe represents today a regional forum promoting public health in Southeast Europe and resolving health inequalities in Europe.

The South-Eastern Europe Health Network is a common platform for cooperation of the ministers of health of 10 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Israel, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. This kind of cooperation promoted Macedonia's bilateral health relations with the countries of Southeast Europe, brought the country closer to the EU (the EU has an observer status at the SEEHN meetings via the Directorate General for Health and Consumers and the Directorate General for Enlargement, while a number of EU member countries, including Slovenia, Belgium, Germany, France, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands, and Greece, have a direct partner relationship with the network), promoted its relations with other countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, which are partners to the network, and helped it apply international conventions and recommendations on health and medicine (the Council of Europe and the World Health Organizations are also partners to the network).

Since the establishment of the SEEHN 12 years ago, the ministers of health of the SEEHN member countries have held numerous meetings and signed a number of ministerial declarations.

The last Ministerial Meeting was held in Skopje on 18 November 2014, during Macedonia's Presidency of the network, and served as an occasion for the ministries of health to table health reforms, the approach of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the implementation of the WHO Health 2020 Strategy, the mobility and human resources education in the health sector, and the capacities of the region to respond to states of emergency.

The rapid social and economic integration of Southeast Europe is seen as an opportunity for addressing health challenges and possibilities in the region. Working together has been part of the history of the nations of this region and is the only way of tackling challenges, taking opportunities and creating a climate for innovative mechanisms for closer cooperation in the best interest of the health of the people in the region.

The mission of the SEEHN is to promote sustainable growth in its member countries by promoting health, which is achieved through a process of strengthening cooperation, rendering assistance in capacity building, and strengthening the degree of cooperation and promotion of international activities within the framework of the SEEHN and Europe. In doing so, the SEEHN focuses on strengthening political and administrative connections among member states, thus reducing social and economic differences and improving the overall quality of life.

As a regional initiative, the SEEHN aims to promote health in the region of Southeast Europe and to secure and maintain ownership and leadership by the countries of the region during the implementation of certain priority activities in public health in Southeast Europe, identified by the ministers of health of the SEE countries, with a special emphasis on the promotion of mental health, tobacco control, communicable diseases, blood and blood products safety, food safety, public health systems, promotion of maternal and neonatal health, etc.

This regional cooperation in public health was formalized with the agreement and the commitments of the ministers of health of the SEE countries to the provisions of the Dubrovnik and Skopje Pledges endorsed at the First Health Ministers' Forum in 2001 and the Second Health Ministers' Forum in 2005, respectively.

With the aim of promoting regional cooperation in public health and strengthening the administrative capacities for development of human resources in public health, in 2008 and 2009 the SEEHN member states signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Future of the South-Eastern Europe Health Network in the Framework of the South East European Co-operation Process (2008 and beyond). The signing of the Memorandum made it possible for the future institutional and organizational capacities to follow up on the extant institutional capacities, human resources and know-how in the region of SEE whereby the SEEHN transformed into a valuable, self-sustainable mechanism capable of serving the purpose set by the ministers of health of the SEE countries in the Dubrovnik Pledge of 2001 and the Skopje Pledge of 2005. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the Presidency rotates once every six months following the alphabetical order of the countries and operates on the "troika" principle (past, current and future presidents forming a team).

The Memorandum of Understanding on the Future of the South-Eastern Europe Health Network in the Framework of the South East European Cooperation Process (2008 and beyond), as a technical structure of the SEEHN also established the operations of the Regional Health Development Centres (RHDC), tasked with the implementation of public health programmes, projects, and activities in the technical areas for which they have been designated. In this way, the technical cooperation that have thus far been maintained in such areas as mental health, communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, food safety and nutrition, tobacco control, safety of blood and blood components, public health systems, information systems, maternal and neonatal health, public health services, health systems, antimicrobial resistance, accreditation and health protection quality, has transformed through these centres into long-term programmes for regional cooperation on public health.

The future plans of the network centre on ensuring a functional SEEHN Secretariat seated in Skopje so that it is capable of managing all the activities of the network, including the operations of the offices of the SEEHN member states and the RHCDs.

With its designation as the host country of the SEEHN Secretariat, the Republic of Macedonia became a regional cooperation leader and ensured strengthening of institutional and organizational capacities for regional cooperation in SEE.

Since its establishment in 2001, the SEE Health Network has grown from a project aiming to promote peace and stability to regional forum promoting public health in Southeast Europe and resolving health inequalities in Europe.

Facts about the SEE Health Network

The SEE Health Network, one of the most successful health initiatives in the region of Southeast Europe, was established for the purpose of:

* promoting peace and stability

* ensuring development, promotion and alignment of the national legislation with WHO and European regulations

* extending support in communicable diseases surveillance and control

* ratifying the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and adopting tobacco control laws

* orienting the health strategy toward promoting mental health and care for children with disabilities at the local level

* establishing 10 mental health centres in the community

* approving laws and regulations on food safety in support of consumer protection

* developing and updating national strategies on maternal and neonatal health

* capacity building through sharing experience and training of experts in nine technical areas at various levels

* providing regional and national evaluations

* establishing strong partnerships between SEE countries and donors from neighbouring countries

Mr. Nikola Todorov, Minister of Health of the Republic of Macedonia.
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Author:Todorov, Nikola
Publication:Crossroads Foreign Policy Journal
Geographic Code:4EXMA
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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