In remembrance of Prof. Johannes Vang (03.01.1931 – 15.05.2021) the HPH community reflects on his significant contributions towards initiating the International and Swedish HPH Networks:
Dr. Oliver Groene, CEO of the International HPH Secretariat:
I had the privilege to meet Prof Vang during my appointment at WHO, where I worked as a young professional and – amongst other things – was responsible for the coordination of the International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals. I remember my discussion with Prof Vang still quite lucidly, meeting him in the context of a conference on health promotion. We talked about various research themes in relation to the development of standards for health promoting hospitals and Prof Vang was very supportive of the work that we were conducting then at WHO. As a senior academic he grasped every nuance of my plans in a split-second and rather than responding to my questions directly, he directed me in the best style of Socrates to the broader themes underpinning my ideas, and thus had an important impact on my thinking. Even twenty years later I still remember some of the questions that Prof Vang encouraged me to reflect on. Two of these are still extremely relevant today. The first point was the observation that most hospital performance statistics were no different if all patients died after discharge! The main reflection here was that, whilst progress in medical science has been remarkable in the last twenty years, hospitals – and most professionals working in hospitals – are still very much focused on processes that cause disease, rather than those that create health, and that hospitals have little impact over what happens with a person after he/she leaves the building. We now know that a huge amount of waste in health care is associated with the lack of prevention, lack of health orientation and highly fragmented care delivery. This observation has taken me to conduct an international comprehensive hospital performance assessment programme whilst at WHO and to continue an academic career in health services research using data-base linked national audits to investigate quality-of-care pathways. The second observation, and perhaps an implication causally linked to the first, is that in order to assess health care performance we should also ask patients through the rating of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures. This is again an idea that has become a very topical discussion in health services, both in the research context but also in implementation and indeed in the broader health care industry. The idea of assessing the quality through PROMs is fascinating and I am delighted that I can take this idea forward in a current international study with the OECD on the assessment of over 20 country health systems using a combination of PROM and PREMs (patient-experience measures). I am sure that Prof Vang “planted” numerous ideas in young researchers´ and managers´ brains which provide a rich heritage to his work and continue to inform research, improve practice and most importantly have an impact on the lives of the people working in health care settings, or recovering from illness. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Prof Vang.
When I arrived in Copenhagen in 1991 Johannes was in charge of hospitals and as I was the technical officer for Human Resources Development, our lives only cross in the corridors of the office, but nevertheless his presence was noticeable. He radiates security, personality, and knowledge. He was what we would define as a gentleman.
We started working together when I became the Regional Adviser of Health Care Services which included primary care and hospitals. His knowledge on the field contributed to the support of the programmes and the development of the hospital policies in Europe which were very much needed with the collapse of the USSR. We did not agree all the time, but always reached an agreement based in the and analysis of the situation and what we thought was best for the project or the country, his Ideas and points of view were always enlightening. The time has given him the reason on his innovative ideas.
He was a great professional and a great person. It was an honor to know and work with him.
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