UNESCO Chair Global Health and Education Health Education, Prevention, Health Promotion, Children and Young People

Pre-conference Genuine Participation and the Transformational Potential of Health Promotion – Coronavirus Politics

This online event, as part of the 14th European Public Health Conference (10-12 November), was held on Wednesday 10 November 2021. The preconference was organised by EUPHA Health Promotion Section, UNESCO Chair on Global Health & Education and the University of Michigan.


The COVID-19 pandemic led the world into an unprecedented crisis, affecting health, economy, social life and politics and impacting all sectors of society. In their attempts to contain the pandemic as good as possible, during the first year of COVID-19 governments across the world implemented public health emergency measures such as lockdowns and curfews leading to closing schools, universities, restaurants, theatres and almost all non-system relevant settings. However, these settings are critical places for people to meet, talk, play, learn and work, which is why these are so important for health promotion. Never before in modern history did a health problem have such an overwhelming impact on society. It is challenging our views on what a healthy and health promotive society means.

It is important to consider the role of health promotion in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic may not appear to be a core concern for health promotion, but we would argue that health promotion is more important in this time of crisis than ever. This crisis underscores the need for strong public systems, as well as the critical role of health literacy in promoting population health. There is a need for effective communication and community mobilization efforts to enhance protective and self-care behaviours and measures at a societal, community and individual level. At the heart of the health promotion response to the COVID-19 crisis is the need to increase people’s control over their own health, to enhance social cohesion and solidarity, and to (re)build public trust and collective responsibility for population health and wellbeing. Successful community engagement supported by new digital opportunities for safe communication, is key to coping successfully with this crisis and its many disruptive consequences at a societal level. Health promotion has a central role to play in empowering communities and individuals in adopting effective responses and managing the psychosocial impacts of the multi-layered consequences of this pandemic. The health promotion community has an advocacy role to play in arguing for sustained investment in public health systems, so that countries are better prepared for future crises and recognize the value of supporting health and well-being. This is where the transformative potential of health promotion comes in and can ensure the best health for every human being.


The main goal of this EPHC pre-conference is to open new perspectives on genuine participation as a means to highlight the transformational potential of Health Promotion. By shifting participation as a mantra to participation as a practice this pre-conference aims at establishing a stronger focus to inclusion as part of health-for-all-policies.

The goals of the preconference are:                       

  1. identify gaps between theory and practice in genuine participation
  2. discuss a range of practices and tools to guide the transformational potential of health promotion
  3. share priority areas for moving ahead with genuine participation

In this session we will explore different perspectives to the future of the transformational potential of health promotion focusing on the global and the national level.

Next to these objectives, we wish to create a space that supports international networking among professionals and researchers interested in advancing participatory community-based public health interventions. This is at the core of the activities of the UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education and of the EUPHA Health Promotion Section.



  • Luis Saboga-Nunes, president of the EUPHA Health Promotion section; Institute of Sociology University of Education, Freiburg, Germany


  • Goof Buijs, WHO Collaborating Center & UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education
  • Bjarne Bruun Jensen, Professor in Health Promotion, Senior Adviser, Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Denmark

Round table

  • Goof Buijs, Facilitator, WHO Collaborating Center & UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education
  • Mamdouh Wahba, Arab Coalition for Adolescent Medicine, Egyptian Society for Adolescent Medicine, Egypt
  • MinChien Tsai, Affiliated researcher UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education, Taipei
  • Nicola Gray, University of Huddersfield, England
  • Rául Mercer, FLACSO, Argentina
  • Vanessa Salgado, Camará Calunga Institute, Brazil
  • Marco Akerman, University of São Paulo, Brazil


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