Lapp Dance

  • by: |
  • 02/08/2007
I've been in Helsinki for the past few days attending a conference entitled, "Financing Sustainable Healthcare in Europe." My fear was that it would devolve into a conference on Sustainable Healthcare Financing in Europe. It didn't.

It didn't, even though there was a presentation by the US Veterans Administration on, among other things, their wonderful formulary.

It didn't, even though there were more than a few presentations on both evidence-based medicine and healthcare technology assessment.

It didn't, even though the issue of information-to-patients and the "empowered consumer" were discussed.

And this was in Europe! A good sign that sanity may yet prevail in the land that brought us such wonderful acronyms as NICE and IQWIG.

It might be overly optimistic to say this was the beginning of a continental debate on ways to save the future of health care in Europe in ways other than just saving money.

It might be overly optimistic -- but it's worth hoping for the best. And the best and the brightest were in attendance in Helsinki.

The event was sponsored by SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund, Luxembourg's Ministry of Health, and Pfizer. Attendees came from across Europe and included health ministers and senior government advisors (the health ministers of Finland and Poland and a former prime minister of Finland attended and participated) along with leading academics, decision-makers and thought leaders from both "New" and "Old" Europe, and other points on the map (Finland, Sweden, Demmark, Norway, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, France, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania, Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Portugal, Hungary, Ireland, Germany).

There was also a minyan or more of senior officials from the European Commission and the European Parliament. In fact, the conference was chaired (and expertly so) by Pat Cox, the former President of the European Parliament.

The bonus of having so many high-profile government types in one room at the same time is that they tell memorable stories. The best came from Aho Esko (the former Finnish PM) who recalled the time when the Premier of Iceland said to the Prime Minister of Israel that their two nations were very different -- Israel being the nation chosen by God. Iceland the one frozen by God.

The presentations from the event should be shortly available at

The most important take-away was that many of the presentations focused on the theme that "health is wealth" -- and that, as such, health care is a worthwhile investment.

Wither such positive momentum? Time will tell.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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