Panel 9. Reuniting society for a transition towards an inclusive, human-centered and connecting health care

Western societies gave a strong role to governments in the domain of health and social well-being in the course of the 20th century, supported by strong social organizations. However, due to neoliberal policies from the 80-ies onwards, governments gradually have ceded tasks and functions to private companies. The resulting dominant models of organizing the health sector, based on the principles of economic efficiency and market functioning, have exacerbated the vulnerability of this sector. This becomes even more clear during the current Covid19 pandemic. The global health and sanitary crisis does not only put under pressure the health sector but all domains of societies (economic, cultural, social,…) in our highly interconnected and interdependent world. Hart boven Hard (HbH: literally “Heart Over Hard”) is a civil society movement which originated in 2014 in reaction to the drastic savings in the domain of health and well-being (and other public domains as education and culture) imposed by the Flemish government (Belgium). The movement aims to contribute to a sustainable and fair society by stimulating bottom-up participation in policy making and bringing individual needs to a collective level. For HbH the following principles should inspire the organization of health care: 1. Attention for the ‘whole person’ as sense-seeker; 2. Warm and equivalent relations between care-receivers and care-givers; 3. Care should be integrated in broader social networks; 4. Care should favor inclusion in society by paying attention to a broad array of issues like housing, leisure, professional job opportunities, political participation, etc.).

A dedicated Workgroup (which presents the proposal for this panel) was constituted in 2020 with a mix of activists, who have extensive personal experiences related to (mental) health care, and academics, interested in social inclusion, participation and multi-actor collaboration in this domain. The Workgroup is actively looking for interactions between civil society and other sectors social organizations and stakeholders active in the sector, which can transform the current care organization, into a care-system that promotes the health and well-being of all people. The Workgroup wants to stimulate a multi-actor collaborative process mobilizing like-minded persons and groups in civil society, service organizations, governmental agencies, … . The Workgroup is searching for an appropriate role and function in this process (“stimulator”, inspirator, (co-)convener, pressure, think-tank, supporter – or some combination of these roles?). It is planning a series of dialogues with persons who have expressed publicly their support for principles in health care, which are very similar to those expressed by HbH. According to these voices, there is a widespread need in society for a transition to a human-centered and connecting health care. Together with them we want to organize multi-actor workshops and activities which can startup, facilitate and accelerate this much needed transition.

The panel is inviting scholars and practitioners involved in similar initiatives elsewhere. It aims to share experiences and learning insights to address the question how activists and civil society movements can mobilize other actors, belonging to the civil and public sector, and promote the transition towards an inclusive, human-centered and connecting health care.