Addressing the needs of vulnerable populations – #EHMA2021

7 April 2021

Vulnerable populations tend to experience barriers to health-care services and social protection; and face many health inequalities.

Health Inequalities are the differences in health status between groups of people which are important, unnecessary, unfair, unjust, systematic, and avoidable by reasonable means. They can be observed between populations and groups within populations, and as a gradient. They can also be observed between countries and regions. They are linked to social, economic, and environmental conditions- the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age. These inequalities often mean that the lower social and economic status – or relative disadvantage – of an individual or group in society is connected to lower health status”. -EuroHealthNet. Glossary of Public Health Terms – Health Inequalities Portal [cited 6 Apr 2021]

Vulnerable and high-risk groups may include, but are not to be limited to people with chronic illnesses and long-term needs, migrants, the ageing population, people with low socio-economic status, etc.

Not only do those groups normally have more difficulties in accessing healthcare services and having positive health outcomes, but the Health at a Glance: Europe 2020 report has also reported that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups. Across EU countries, approximately 90% of death caused by COVID-19 have been among people who are 60 years and older; with an added risk for residents of long-term care (LTC) institutions. In some countries, the deaths among residents in LTC facilities reached over 50% of all reported COVID-18 deaths (1).

In addition to elderly people and those living in LTC facilities, COVID-19 has exacerbated existing social health inequalities for poorer individuals, those living in deprived areas, ethnic minorities, and immigrants from low- and middle-income countries (1).

The report named some solutions to improve the health care access and health outcomes of vulnerable groups, but where and how does health management support in bridging that gap and addressing health inequalities? 

1.  OECD/European Union. Health at a Glance: Europe 2020-STATE OF HEALTH IN THE EU CYCLE. 2020.


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I have been active in EHMA since the first years of the '90s and I have seen its evolution from a small association of members interested in sharing knowledge on health management practices to the current status of reference and advisory key player for EU, health systems and organisations, stakeholders associations, industry and universities. EHMA is now a unique knowledge hub, policy advisor, community of practice and network of best in class organisations involved in health policy and management. A place where health managers can build their competences, policy-makers and stakeholder associations envision how to implement and sustain change through health management, industry leaders understand how to engage more effectively with health organisations and systems. The right place to nurture and grow health management capabilities and capacity for every stakeholder of health systems.

Prof. Federico Lega, University of Milan, Italy

Health management has a crucial function in shaping public health and health system challenges. The Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria had success in collaborating with EHMA on EU-funded projects that has resourced us to create new health management competencies for the future workforce. In addition to all classical definitions, health management is a science dealing with individuals, groups, and society at large. It is an art contributing to the beauty of our lives and an interactive communication process at all levels of institutions and human energy. I have also had the pleasure to chair the South Eastern European Special Interest Group which gives members a space to discuss and tools to address how health systems are managed in our regions.

Prof. Todorka Kostadinova, Medical University of Varna, Bulgaria

I enjoy the high level of interaction and engagement in EHMA’s activities, in particular during the annual conference where the panel discussions are rich and well prepared. As a hospital manager and professor of health management, EHMA motivates and inspires me to be creative. You go back home feeling energised from seeing old friends and making new connections, as well as being convinced of serving as EHMA’s ambassador. It’s a strong feeling of interdisciplinary engagement, but it also feels like being part of family-like community.

Prof. Sandra C. Buttigieg, University of Malta, Malta

EHMA is a pre-eminent organisation for everyone working in planning, managing and delivering health services across Europe. As a long standing member of EHMA I have always been impressed by the vibrant community of managers, researchers and academics it has created and by the many opportunities for sharing knowledge and funding opportunities it has brought to its members. Its international scope is impressive and its impact is often felt in management and research across European and national health systems.

Prof. Axel Kaehne, Edge Hill University, UK

Health workforce has become more essential in operating, managing and maintaining health systems lately, particularly in crisis and emergency situations. European healthcare professions and the workforce need to be high on the agenda of managers and decision makers. The Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University in Hungary is a longstanding EHMA member, because it connects us with collaborators and experts, with whom we can have complex debates, from whom we can learn and at the end find solutions in various challenging fields of healthcare management.

Dr Eszter Kovács, Health Services Management Training Centre, Semmelweis University, Hungary

As a hospital administrator and health management professor, I see on a daily basis that the healthcare challenges require talented and skilled managers to transform it. the EHMA membership has been beneficial to bring healthcare management research and education to the demanding healthcare services world, promoting healthcare management competencies and knowledge creation.

Dr Alexandre Lourenco, APAH - Association of Portuguese Hospital Managers, Portugal

Many healthcare systems in Europe and beyond are facing similar challenges which require innovative and creative solutions. EHMA’s annual conference, webinars, Programme Directors’ group and other activities and resources provide incredible opportunities for networking, connecting and sharing experiences. A distinct feature of EHMA is the diversity of members with representation from many countries, sectors and different communities of practice – academic, policy-makers, practitioners, managers, leaders and students. The annual conference is a highlight in the calendar year, offering a friendly, fun and learningful environment for emerging and established members to engage, collaborate and meet up with old and new friends. I am proud to be a member of the EHMA Board.

Prof. Ann Mahon, University of Manchester, UK

Society evolution, pandemics and ageing modify health needs. So, health policies and services are to change dramatically. EHMA, through webinars, workshops and annual conference provides an excellent insight to a professional changing world, favouring closeness to management innovation and the protagonists of these changes. As a primary care services’ manager, participating in EHMA activities is really worth it and allows to involve oneself in the innovation processes.

Dr Antoni Peris Grao, Consorci Castelldefels Agents de Salut (CASAP), Spain