In April 2015, in the effort to increase public engagement in policy making, the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) announced a competition “Voice of the Region”, inviting citizens to take part and give their views through essay, video or photography on issues they face in everyday life. The competition was organized in 8 rounds on different topics, enriching the debate with an invited expert view on each of them.

As part of the long-term fruitful cooperation with SEEHN and the importance of recognizing health and well-being as contributor to the economic growth, one theme was dedicated to health, debating on whether compatible systems in the region mean better quality of life. Giving the opportunity for everyone to write articles and be part of the competition RCC opens doors for people to inform themselves and do some health research.

Dr Maria Ruseva, an international expert on public health and health systems together with Gergana Koleva an international public health consultant had written their expert view underlining the need of involving the non-health sectors and industries in the process of achieving the goal of every country which is ensuring a better quality of life for its citizens. They say this is necessary because of the explicit risks to health certain services and products carry – risks which often materialize as diseases and impose a health and economic burden on individuals and societies only years later when damages are harder to reverse than to have had prevented in the first place. Very important point of view is recognizing the need of investing in health which contributes to sustainable growth at the same time as it limits societal exposure to health risks through appropriate policies and actions. This is the reason why in Bulgaria, the Ministry of Health recently announced a plan to introduce a tax on foods with salt and sugar content above the allowed levels. The proposal follows similar public health taxes launched in Hungary in 2011 (known as the “chips tax”) and in Finland the same year (known as the “sweet tax”). It aims to signal to food manufacturers to shift to healthier product alternatives or face declining demand, and at the same time serves as a behavioral nudge to consumers to encourage better eating habits.

 

Vladan Racic’s essay “Nothing but health…” was chosen as winner of the round 8 of the Voice of the Region Competition. His winning arguments emphasize that neither money, education or power would matter without health, and thus prevention is very important: “There is an old adage “value your health now before it’s too late””. Being the voice of the region for health, Vladan wrote that it is necessary that those in power realize that health is the most important factor of a society.

 

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