Newsletter Spring 2022


©Maria Orlova on Pexels

Federal Councillor and Vice President Alain Berset visits Albania

Swiss Federal Councillor and Vice President Alain Berset had his first visit in Albania, thus marking the highest-level visit by a Swiss government official in recent times. During the visit, Minister Berset signed the agreement with Minister of Finance and Economy Delina Brahimaj that ensures that Swiss and Albanian nationals receive equal treatment in respect of their social security entitlements and have better access to these benefits.

Vice President Berset met with Deputy Prime Minister Arben Ahmetaj and discussed the excellent relations between Albania and Switzerland, and the responses to the 2019 earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Berset met with the Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu and visited the Vora health centre renovated with Swiss support. Discussions centred on efforts to tackle the pandemic, the vaccination roll-out, and the experiences of both countries in handling the crisis. 

Another topic was Switzerland's support for the Albanian health system with Switzerland being the most important bilateral partner in the health sector. Since 2015, Switzerland is supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and its subordinate institutions, to improve primary healthcare (PHC) services through its project “Health for All” (HAP)1.

A major achievement of the support in strengthening primary healthcare is the elaboration of the “Strategy for development of PHC services 2020-2025”. HAP is assisting health authorities to implement the Strategy through several interventions that aim at better service quality at PHC level through more capable health professionals and improved infrastructure. 

Minister Berset met with family medicine teams that are piloting several interventions introduced by HAP such as: new models of home care for elderly and chronic bed-bound patients; use of new clinical protocols and guides for treatment of most common non-communicable diseases; new profiles of nurses operating in PHC and new continuous education programs for health professionals. Teams provided insights on the impact of these interventions into their daily practice and service quality offered to patients. 

Bledar Hodobashi
Communications Officer, Embassy of Switzerland in Albania ​

​Photo: Councillor Berset at PHC Center in Albania ©Bevis Fushal, MoHSP

1Health for All Project is in its second phase of implementation. An end-line study following the first phase of the project (2015-2018) has been conducted and showed at improvement is observed at all three assessed levels: infrastructure, service provision and patient satisfaction. To learn more on the study findings, visit

First international conference focused on nurses in primary healthcare takes place in Albania​

The nursing profession at primary healthcare level needs to be strengthened to address the health challenges, in response to the prevailing burden of disease and new challenges brought by COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, creating new models of care services that meet the most pressing needs such as prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, home care for the elderly, e-health solutions etc. are some of the paths to be explored with the purpose of enhancing the role of nurses in PHC professional teams. 

To discuss these topics, international and local nursing professionals and experts gathered together in the international conference “Role of Nurses in the primary health care facing new health challenges” that took place on March 2nd 2022 in Tirana (Albania) in a hybrid format with onsite and online sessions. The conference program had a strong evidence-based background and aimed at the exchange of experiences for effective primary healthcare teams. 

Albania is implementing the Strategy on Development of Primary Health Care Services 2020-2025, which stresses the need to improve the training of nurses and revise their role so that they can take on new tasks and play a greater role in maintaining and improving the communities’ health.
During her speech, the Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu highlighted the assistance Switzerland has provided in the health sector and especially in the nursing field: “I am grateful for the Swiss support we have had since the very beginning regarding the boosting of the role of nurses. The fact that we are here today discussing how to further enhance this role, shows that we have introduced sustainable approaches in this regard.” 

The conference was supported by the SDC project in Albania Health for All (HAP). HAP has carried out several interventions aiming at strengthening the capacities of nurses in primary health care such as a new master's program in family nursing, updating the role and profiles of nurses in PHC and elaborating and implementing new models of home care delivered mainly by family nurses. 

The Swiss Ambassador Adrian Maître acknowledged the efforts of the Albanian government to transform the primary health care service to respond to the population's needs. “Switzerland fully supports this aim-said Ambassador Maître- and we, together with other international partners – are ready to continue our support under the coordination and leadership of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. Together we can better align our resources whether external or domestic, to national goals and needs.”

The book of abstracts of the Conference can be downloaded here.​

The Healthy Life Project implements a healthy community model. This is for people to have more knowledge and awareness about NCDs and their modifiable risk factors, and to strengthen the enabling environment for promoting health and moving to integrate health in all policies locally. 

Between May 2021 - March 2022, twenty villages in Moldova implemented small-scale “healthy promotion community projects”. 

In the preparatory phase, substantial effort was invested to capacitate the communities in basic principles of the “healthy community” concept and its practical meanings (key principles of public health, health in all policies and healthy city approach), community development (development of local health profiles, participatory Asset Mapping) and project writing. The goals of all the small projects aimed at improving the knowledge and the lifestyle of the adult population of the communities in order to improve their health in a sustainable manner. 

The majority of the beneficiaries were from the adult population, falling between 45 and 65-years old category, with some exceptions of younger and older participants. From a gender perspective, the balance is inclined towards the female population, but by taking a targeted approach more men started to come on board. Between 20-60 people engaged from each community, making a total of 603 people across the 20 communities. 

Summarizing all 20 projects, there were five major categories of activities: trainings and seminars; informational activities; sports activities; cooking masterclasses and endowment of outdoor and indoor spaces for leisure time sports.
In terms of implementation, most communities performed very well in conducting trainings and informational campaigns. Some challenges were faced related to sports activities due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. Only those that had planned less sports activities managed to do them, splitting into smaller groups, and holding the classes for only short periods at a time. For cooking masterclasses, most of the communities managed to organize them despite the pandemic.
The types of equipment that the funding was used to procure ranged from outdoor fitness equipment, including bicycles, to indoor bodybuilders, professional weight scales and glucometers. Overall, 16 outdoor and 9 indoor spaces were equipped and 146 activities were implemented. 

The local authorities played a great role in the success of the projects, providing the necessary logistic support, premises, free labour force and taking steps to ensure e.g. new equipment is maintained amongst other steps to ensure sustainability. 
The involvement of schools, kindergartens, cultural houses, and others proved to be beneficial for the projects. Direct beneficiaries of the projects registered positive changes in their health as a consequence of changes in their lifestyles, adopting healthier cooking habits and becoming more mobile. Projects that measured the progress of their direct beneficiaries, reported improvements in their vital signs.

Article by:
Diana Berari

Valeriu Sava
National Program Officer Health, Swiss Cooperation Office in Moldova

Photo: ©Diana Berari 

An innovative approach to improving young people’s mental health in COVID-19 times ​

Globally, there is recognition that new strategies are required to reduce disability due to mental health problems in young people The COVID-19 pandemic and its prevention strategies have increased the prevalence of mental health problems, particularly among the young population1. This problem creates a necessity for more and more efficient mental health services. However, decision makers face challenges in designing and delivering effective mental health programs and services. The traditional analytic tools available do not adequately account for critical elements nor the complexity of problems, often leading to unrealistic expectations of the impact of interventions in real-world settings. To address this, funded by Botnar Foundation, our team (conformed by CSART (Australia), Universidad Javerniana (Colombia), and Swiss TPH(Switzerland) and other academic partners in several countries) develops a tool that uses system modelling/computer simulation to guide the investment in mental health services for young people in Bogota, Colombia, informing decision makers and researchers about the efficiency of different investment scenarios to maximize their resources. 

The project consists of 4 components:
  1. A study to assess the feasibility & value of the participatory systems modelling approach 
  2. Systems modelling a​nd simulation. Through a series of participatory workshops, the stakeholders come together to map the complex system, identify outcomes of interest, & prioritise interventions to be integrated into the model. 
  3. Data assimilation. The systems model is iteratively refined and informed by M&E activity using data from relevant online platforms and other sources from the Colombian context. 
  4. Platform validation. This involves co-design and validation of language-appropriate, culturally-sensitive and contextually-adapted platforms for young people in Bogota to supplement existing monitoring systems/administrative data collection. 
The preliminary results indicate that so far, the participatory workshops add value to stakeholders, that can be potentially translated throughout the entire program, contributing to the overall success and sustainability of the decision-making tool. 
Participatory systems modelling provides a social learning process with knowledge mobilisation occurring between system actors & through the unique insights the modelling delivers. 

For more information, click here

Salvador Camacho
Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

Photo: ©​CSART, Australia

1 Carmen Moreno et al., "How Mental Health Care Should Change as a Consequence of the Covid-19 Pandemic," The Lancet Psychiatry 7, no. 9 (2020/09/01/ 2020),

Switzerland supported the first National Forum of Health Facility Managers in Kyrgyzstan 

Within its support to the realization of the Ministry of Health vision for the effective health management in Kyrgyzstan, the Health Facility Autonomy (HFA) Phase II Project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), supported the organization of the first National Forum of Health Facility Managers in Kyrgyzstan. The Forum was held in Bishkek on 28 January with the participation of the Minister of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Ambassador of Switzerland to the Kyrgyz Republic, and the participation of more than 100 health facility managers from all regions.

At the Forum, health facility managers had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of priority issues of health management, as well as ways of strengthening the healthcare management system. Core pillars and elements of the newly developed ‘Model of the Renewed System for Ensuring Competence of Health Facility Managers’ were presented to the participants and discussed during the Forum. The discussion on issues related to the approaches to introducing new professional retraining and continuous professional development of health facility managers, proposed by the HFA phase II project, was of particular interest for health facility managers.

The Forum resulted in the adoption of a joint resolution outlining the agreement of the health facility managers to unite under the newly established Association of Health Managers (AHMs) and strengthen their competencies. Health facility managers confirmed their intention and readiness to take 500 academic hours courses to obtain “Health Management” speciality which will ensure high competency of the managerial cadre in the health sector of Kyrgyzstan. 

The HFA Phase II Project is implemented by "Euro Health Group" (Denmark) in partnership with the Public Foundation "Health System Initiatives" (Kyrgyzstan).

Dr Sanja Matovic-Miljanovic, PhD.
Regional Manager and Strategic Advisor  
Euro Health Group, Denmark/Serbia

Dr Chinara Seitalieva
National Team Leader, HFA Phase II project,

Expo 2020 in Dubai: Event on Artificial Intelligence in Health hosted by the gdhub and SDC

On the 21st of March, the Geneva Hub for Global Digital Health (gdhub) hosted together with the Swiss
Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Embassy of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain the event ‘Building bridges on innovation and impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in healthcare’ at the Swiss Pavilion at the Expo 2020 in Dubai. The event brought together experts and representatives from Switzerland and the UAE to share knowledge on applied AI-tools for health and for an expert discussion. 
The event started with a welcome by Ambassador Massimo Baggi, who said in his opening remarks: 

“Switzerland supports a global digital health governance system that can better manage risks and seize opportunities offered by digitization and AI in health. We aim to promote systemic approaches to digital health and AI and lay emphasis on the fact that technologies are not isolated tools but part of concerted efforts and comprehensive packages to strengthen health systems and the health of the population.”

Followed by an introductory speech from SDC’s Head of Global Health Program Erika Placella, and the University of Geneva’s Vice-Rector Prof. Antoine Geissbuhler.
Prof. Christian Lovis, who is Chairman of Medical Information Sciences at the University Hospitals of Geneva highlighted the promises and challenges of AI for health with a focus on knowledge engineering in his keynote speech ‘Big Data is good for machines, Small Data is good for humans’. 
Dr Bassam Mahboub, Consultant Pulmonologist and Head of Pulmonary Medicine at the Dubai Health Authority discussed Artificial Intelligence in Health Care Delivery.

The keynotes were followed by the presentation of four applied AI-tools:
  • “Pneumoscope: Intelligent Stethoscope to better diagnose pulmonary diseases”, Prof. Alain Gervaix, Director of Department of Women, Child, and Adolescent, Geneva University Hospital
  • “Leveraging AI to optimize patient journeys. Why is pharma embracing digital health?”, Daniel Raduan, Director Digital Health Solutions, Novartis ME
  • “My food repo: an AI tool for food tracking”, Prof. Marcel Salathé, Professor EPFL, Co-founder AIcrowd
  • “openIMIS: AI-based Claim Adjudication”, Dr. Simona Dobre, Researcher; & Dr. Dragos Dobre, IT Systems Architect; Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
This was followed by an expert discussion, which provided insights to the challenges that come with leveraging digital transformation for health equity – regulation, for example, is crucial to mitigate the risks associated with harmful use of health data, just as data security must be ensured. The expert discussion was composed of Dr. Amandeep Gill (CEO, I-DAIR), Klara Jordan (Chief Public Policy Officer, CyberPeace Institute), Claudia Juech (Vice President Data and Society, The Patrick J. McGovern Foundation), Daniel Raduan (Director Digital Health Solutions, Novartis ME), and Prof. Marcel Salathé (EPFL, Co-founder AIcrowd) and was moderated by Prof Antoine Geissbuhler. 

Caroline Perrin Franck 

©gdhub/ Antoine Geissbuhler/ 2022