Health and Social Issues

Cooperation in health and social issues is today an important part of the Barents collaboration. Although not specifically mentioned in the Kirkenes declaration of 1993, over the last 20 years, cooperation in this field has proved to be highly successful. This is very largely due to the good contact that has been established between strong professional networks in the region.

Joint Working Group on Health and Related Social Issues

The political superstructure for health and social cooperation is the Working Group for Health and Related Social Issues (JWGHS), in which representatives of the national and regional health authorities of the Barents countries meet twice a year to discuss relevant issues. Finland holds the chairmanship of the JWGHS together with Arkhangelsk for the period 2016-2017.

The JWGHS brings together governments, regions, organizations and experts in health and related social issues with the aim to improve public health and social well-being of the people in the Barents Region. The JWGHS works closely with organizations such as the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Members of the JWGHS are Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Both the central government level and the Barents regions in all four countries are represented. The Indigenous People’s Working Group is represented by a member. The EU Commission, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being take part in the work as needed. The JWGHS prepares its own health and social programme for 4 years at a time.

The current programme covers the period 2016-2019. The programme can be downloaded in English and in Russian.


Barents Framework Collaboration Programme on Health and Related Social issues 2016-2019 

The scope and priorities of the programme are:
  • Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, including reduction of lifestyle-related risk factors, environmental factors and new emerging risks 
  • Prevention and control of communicable diseases 
  • Strengthening of health systems and social services with relevance for health 

Three specialized programmes have been worked out by specialists on the request of the JWGHS. The three programmes can be seen as sub-programmes under the Barents Health Programme. These are: 1) The Barents TB Programme, 2) The Barents CYAR Programme and 3) The Barents HIV/AIDS Programme. Their activities are described as follows.

1) The Barents Tuberculosis Programme (Barents TB Programme)

The JWGHS has continued its follow-up of the Declaration of the Prime Ministers at their meeting at Kirkenes 2003. The declaration states that the Barents authorities are to gain full control of the tuberculosis situation in the region within 10 years, i.e. in 2013 at the latest.

In order to coordinate the efforts against tuberculosis in the region, planning of the Barents Tuberculosis programme was initiated by the Swedish – Arkhangelsk chairmanship in 2008. The final version of the Barents TB Programme was approved at and approved by the 16th Meeting of the Joint Working Group on Health and Related Social Issues (JWGHS), in Petrozavodsk, Karelia in 2012.

The goal of the Barents Tuberculosis Program is to take more active measures to prevent the spread of tuberculosis and HIV/TB co-infection in the Barents region through intensive international collaboration.

The following measures are suggested for this purpose:

  • To establish and strengthen the mechanisms of collaboration and joint management between HIV programmes and TB-control programmes for delivering integrated TB and HIV services.
  • To develop the guidelines, standards and standard infectious control programs for the Russian part of the Barents region. To improve the implementation of the existing plans for infection control.
  • To introduction earlier and more accurate diagnostics of TB and MDR TB.
  • To improve Capacities of facilities and Institutions.
  • To develop closer interaction between the civilian and penitentiary healthcare services.
  • Further develop cooperation between the Russian Federation and Northern European countries in prevention and treatment of tuberculosis.

The Barents TB Programme Steering Committee oversees the progress of the collaboration under the programme and reports biannually to the JWGHS.

More information on the Barents Tuberculosis Programme >>>

2) Programme on Children and Youth at Risk in the Barents Region (CYAR)

The CYAR programme, developed for the period 2008 - 2015 aims at strengthening the competence among the regional and local social administrations and at stimulating inter-agency co-operation in the Barents Region, in order to assist children and youth at risk. The programme has had four key activity areas:

1. Situation review in the Barents region - through annual regional reports and Barents meetings

2. Annual conference of experts on issues related to children and youth at risk

3. Dissemination of knowledge about methods of working with children and youth at risk. Several selected sub-programmes targeted at children and youth at risk are implemented:
- Incredible years (focusing on children with behaviour problems)
- Family group conferences
- Aggression replacement training (ART) and Family ART
- What About Us? (focusing on special needs parenting for parents of children with disabilities)
- Restorative justice - intermediary committees (for minor offenders)
- From Violence to Caring - an Internet-based education programme for early recognition and prevention of violence towards children (developed and implemented by the University of Oulu, Finland)

4. Exchange of information; design of a web-site for CYAR and International Barents Secretariat.

For the years 2008-2012 the CYAR programme has been allocated approximately 1 million euro through the NDPHS/Norway.

The Barents CYAR Programme Steering Committee oversees the implementation of the programme and reports biannually to the JWGHS.

More information on the Programme on Children and Youth at Risk >>>

3) The Barents Programme on HIV/AIDS (Barents HIV/AIDS Programme)

The Barents HIV/AIDS Programme aims at strengthening the national capacity to respond to the HIV epidemic. The objective is to improve the situation among vulnerable groups.
This programme was first established in 2005 and then prolonged for 2008 – 2011. The Programme is also included into the 4th Co-operation Programme on Health and Related Social Issues in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region for 2012-2015.

Chair of the Steering Committee of the Barents HIV/AIDS Programme is Ms Evgenia Kotova, Deputy Minister of Health from the Republic of Komi. Finland finances the programme coordinator.

More information on the Barents HIV/AIDS Programme >>>

Members of the Working Group

Contact persons and chairs of the Joint Working Group on Health and Related Social Issues (JWGHS).

National Representatives


Pasi Korhonen (co-chair)
Director of International Affairs
Ministry for Social Affairs and Health
Tel: +358 295163649

Kristiina Poikajärvi
Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Lapland
Tel: +358 295017375

Margit Päätalo
Regional State Administrative Agency (AVI) for Northern Finland
Tel: +358 503509660

Maire Ahopelto 
Kainuu Social and Health Care Joint Authority 
Tel: +358 447773033


Anton Karpunov (co-chair)
Minister of Health of the Arkhangelsk Region
Tel: +7 8182454500, +7 9115629741

Marina Zhestovskikh (technical assistant)
Manager of the Unit for International Cooperation
Arkhangelsk Regional Administration
Tel: +7 8182276218

Valerij Peretruchin 
Minister of Health 
Murmansk Regional Administration
Tel: +7 8152486096

Valentina Vasilyevna Ulich
Ministerial Administration of the Governor of the Republic of Karelia
Tel: +7 8142792900

Yaroslav Bordyug 
Minister of Public Health 
Administration of the Republic of Komi
Tel: +7 8212284000


Karin Berlin 
Deputy Director  
Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
Tel: +46 84051561, +46 722179629  

Anita Helgesson
Strategic Manager 
Regional Council of Västerbotten 
Tel: +46 90165715, +46 705775718  
E-mail: anita


Vibeke R. Gundersen
Senior Adviser
Ministry of Health and Care Services
Tel: +47 48262716 

Kjersti Morvik 
Senior Adviser
Ministry of Children and Equality
Tel: +47 22242203, +47 90517067

Oddvar Larsen 
Head of Cooperation and Preparedness 
Northern Norway Regional Health Authority 
Tel: +47 75512931, +47 99225855 

Pål Christian Bergstrøm 
Director General
Bufetat Region Nord
Tel: +47 46615502

Other representatives

Hanna Sofie Utsi
Working Group on Indigenous Peoples

Useful links

  • - The Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being

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