Interview with Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb of the European Health Forum Gastein

This year, we’re delighted to be the press office / providing media relations to the 19th European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) on 28-30 September 2016 in Bad Hofgastein, Austria. As we all prepare to pack our bags and head to the Austrian valley renowned for the European health policy conference, we took the opportunity to sit down with Dorli Kahr-Gottlieb, Secretary General of the EHFG. Ms Kahr-Gottlieb discusses topics that are top of mind this year:  issues of diversity and demographics in Europe and what we can look forward to when Gastein celebrates its 20th year in 2017.

The preparation for the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) is in full swing. What does this year’s conference promise?

For nearly two decades, we have organised the European Health Forum Gastein to contribute to discussions in and around health policy in Europe. This year’s EHFG promises to tackle issues that go way beyond the health sector and are at the core of societal issues of our times. We will look at challenges and opportunities of demographic change in the population. Europe’s aging population is often seen as a challenge but there are upsides. For example, the generation contributing to what has been termed “the silver economy” can be an asset to societies. Come to Gastein to find out why and what policy makers are thinking!  

We will also aim to highlight the impact of increased diversity on health systems and, more broadly, society as a whole.  Discussions at the forum will go beyond the evident challenges and will consider the constructive solutions we can offer in Europe.

The theme this year deals with a range of sensitive topics – how will you be approaching these issues? (e.g. migration, Brexit etc.)

The theme and timing of EHFG 2016 gives us an opportunity to tackle the truly sensitive topics which touch all of us, both professionally and personally.

We will ensure discussions don’t turn into problem-centered, pessimistic scenarios of the future. For example, while looking at the challenges European societies will face with migration, we will point to the gaps in European economies that may be filled by integrating incoming migrants who tend to be healthy and of working-age into the (healthcare or social care) workforce.  We aim to go beyond the obvious topics of discussion around migration and address the somewhat hidden challenges associated with the migration crisis such as equitable access to healthcare and the need for more intercultural competencies within the health workforce for migrants in need of healthcare.

Keeping up with the major developments, we have a special session on Brexit.  Much has already been said about this topic since the UK’s referendum results, what interests us for EHFG2016 is to look at the issues Brexit specifically raises in relation to healthcare. Again, we will aim to approach this highly emotionally charged topic constructively and future-focused, without shying away from what is a controversial debate.

This year, the European Health Forum Gastein celebrates its 19th year. Are you taking any different approaches?

Yes, we are getting ready to celebrate 20 years of the EHFG next year! The 19th edition will again rely on the strengths of the Forum by bringing together high-level representatives from different sectors and European institutions like WHO Euro and the European Commission to discuss health policy issues that are of relevance for stakeholders in and beyond the health sector. On top of that, we like to bring a little originality to every Gastein Forum. One method is to bring speakers from other sectors to challenge our somewhat health-centric specialist knowledge. This year we are very excited to welcome a Nobel laureate to Gastein, the American economist Paul Krugman. He will bring a unique view on the demographic effects on the economy of the greying babyboomers in his keynote speech and will be participating in a panel discussion and a Q&A session.

In preparation for the 20th anniversary, we will kick start this year’ Gastein with a satellite event on health apps, which is a theme we intend to elaborate on next year. AppGASTEIN 2016: “Here to stay? Health apps and their place in European health systems” will rely on the 4-pillar approach of the EHFG by involving policy makers, patient organisations, industry representatives and researchers to discuss with app developers the potentials, grey areas, importance of health apps and the place they will have in European health systems. We very much look forward to involving the rather new health app development scene into our Gastein community.

What do you look forward to every year at the conference?

The EHFG is unique, and there is truly something that can be best described as the “Gastein spirit”. Participants have said that it’s like entering a different space.  You leave behind the hectic everyday work-life, and as you enter the Gastein valley, you dive into the networking experience and can enjoy relaxed thought provoking exchanges that will help recharge the most seasoned health expert. Personally, I enjoy the bustling energy of the Forum, the great collaboration within the team, the interesting encounters and discussions, the feeling that we are driving things forward every year, and last but not least, the evening events where the most serious and senior experts from all over Europe end up on the dance-floor.

It has been exciting and enjoyable to work with the Acumen public affairs colleagues as our new press team in the run-up to the conference and I look forward to our first joint EHFG. 

Register for Updates