5. Integrated action

//5. Integrated action

5. Integrated action

Recommendation: Improve alignment of policies and strengthen collaboration across sectors

A principle aim of the EU Institutions and of all governments is to deliver well-being. The environmental crisis reflects a failure to do this in the medium to long term. It is becoming more evident how some policies and interventions, such those that promote intensive farming practices, or the prevalence of motorised vehicles, damage public health and well-being. Policy-makers at all levels must therefore (re)define overarching policy goals to ensure that support the triple-win and thereby well-being. More efforts are then also needed to align the work of different sectors to achieve the overarching goals, and ensure that actions reinforce and do not undermine or contradict one another. Finally, more approaches must be trialled and tested that help actors across sectors exploit synergies and address trade-offs. Whilst this need for integrated governance and greater collaboration has long been recognised, progress in practice has been slow. A qualitative analysis of intersectoral cooperation across different INHERIT case studies highlights that many barriers remain, which policymakers can help to address – by setting the right policy objectives, reducing legislative hurdles, and providing the right incentives.[1] INHERIT case studies also demonstrate that harnessing intersectoral collaboration has great potential for triple-wins. The urgency of the climate crisis and the need for an efficient use of resources to take effective action must be the impetus for change.

Voices from INHERIT

We worked with 2 different aldermen, one for health and one for sustainability. And that was difficult. Because of the political aspect, it seemed everyone wanted to use the topic to their own advantage, as election day was fast approaching.

STOEMP, Belgium

The municipality’s organisation has not been equipped in finding appropriate forums and how to join and collaborate. It is a large organisation with different administrations, where the information does not always reach everyone or end up in the right place. It’s a challenge.

Restructuring Residential Areas, Sweden

The intersectoral cooperation in projects of this type is motivating in its own right.

Place Standard, Macedonia

Proper anchoring – common goals and methods. Everyone pulls in the same direction and knows what issues to work with.

Restructuring Residential Areas, Sweden

And then I realised, we are, together, very big. Not in mass and performance indicators, but together we have a lot of personal impact, and we make the difference together with and for the inhabitants.

The Food Garden, The Netherlands

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

Across policy levels  EU level

INHERIT outcomes provide insights on two types of intersectoral collaboration:

  • Establish, clarify and engage people in a shared understanding of common overarching societal goals, values and priorities that relate to the ‘triple-win’: restoring the environment, improving health and well-being for all.
  • On this basis, reassess and reformulate specific policy goals so that they align with the overarching societal objectives, and achieve more than one objective at once. For instance: move from an agricultural policy objective that emphasises the production of sufficient food, to a ‘triple-win’ objective emphasising the sufficiency and quality of food for all. Move from a transport policy objective that focuses on maximising physical movement to a ‘triple-win’ objective of improving affordable access to places through carbon free modes of travel, and encouraging active transport for relatively short distances.
  • Develop and communicate positive future scenarios to support this process and shift from “fear” to “opportunity” (Tool: Future Scenarios).
  • Ensure different dimensions of sustainability (health, environmental, equity) are considered from the outset of policy interventions, to make balanced decisions on potential trade-offs (Tool: INHERIT Model). Embed integrated impact assessments.
  • Create institutional cultures that value and foster collaboration (e.g. by allocating time and resources to cross-sector meetings, appointing an intersectoral working group, building knowledge across different management levels, and clearly labelling and rewarding collaborative efforts).
  • Ensure key decision-making processes involve representatives from different sectors. For example, health, environment and social experts can advise agricultural and food production, trade, sustainable development, single market, consumer protection or economic Directorates, Programme Committees, European Commission advisory and regulatory bodies.
  • Encourage integrated programming and joint financing to remove barriers to joint action (e.g. apply guidance provided by the United Nations Development Programme in Financing across sectors for sustainable development).
  • Identify and address discrepancies in policies at different policy levels (e.g. supra national, national, local) on for example public procurement, to ensure they support and do not undermine each other, and that multiple-level legislative and administrative requirements do not become too burdensome for smaller scale initiatives that aim to innovate.
  • Encourage public-private-people partnerships (PPPs) to develop responses to societal challenges. While there is no single model or definition of PPPs, and they can be complex to manage, they help ensure transparent approaches to develop balanced solutions that meet real needs.
  • Build on local experiences and actions (e.g. experience of fast-moving cities such as C40 cities, Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, Milan Urban Food Policy Pact).
  • Use the leverage of supportive policies and tools at the EU-level (e.g. EU plans to integrate the SDGs into the European Semester process and European Pillar of Social Rights, European Green Deal – with added health dimension).
  • Legislate where needed. For instance: require multi-sectoral programme committees or that housing development companies receiving public funds meaningfully engage residents in development plans. (Restructuring Residential Outdoor Areas)
  • Identify and plan together towards clear common goals and mutual benefits, and clearly communicate on successes, fostering the motivation of all partners.
  • Apply long-term thinking to ensure continuity of vision and funding. (The Food Garden)
  • Adopt an open, flexible attitude and invest in personal relationships of trust with different stakeholders, taking time for face-to-face meetings and ensuring open communication. (Place Standard)
  • Appoint competent “bridge-builders” to go into the field to bring perspectives together. (Restructuring Green Space)
  • Foster visibility, for instance by disseminating information and providing political support.
  • Boost the collaboration, by strengthening the engagement of existing partners or by reaching out to new stakeholders (e.g. housing associations, schools).
  • Never cease striving to get better!
  • Ensure that the SDGs and ‘triple-win’ are central to key EU mechanisms across institutions –such as the EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024, the Europe post-2020 strategy, the European Green Deal (which should also include health considerations), the European Semester, the Implementation Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, and relevant Horizon Europe research missions – and ensure coherence where possible between these mechanisms. Ensure that all sectors across institutions (for instance, Committees in the European Parliament, DGs in the Commission, Commissioners themselves) adopt an SDG (and triple-win) thinking into their work.
  • Ensure proposed new legislation across sectors is ‘triple-win’ proof, for instance through Impact Assessments that take into account environmental, health and social factors.
  • Connect sustainability and social indicators and metrics to the European Semester processes, including by evidence, advice and awareness-raising, scaling up good practices or taking up better engagements among sub-national and civil society bodies.
  • Encourage national governments to collaborate across Ministerial Councils, for example by connecting the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) with Sustainable Development and Environment Councils and engaging appropriate cross-sector advice for Ministers and officials.
  • Improve cross-sectoral liaison between European institutions, UN agencies and national, sub national and civil society bodies responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluations, to improve multi-agency coherence and seek wider participation in SDG achievement (e.g. working with the Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the SDGs).
  • Develop a clear implementation strategy to achieve the Council Conclusions ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030’ with specific targets against which to measure progress that specify which actors at EU and EU Member State level are accountable for achieving the targets.
  • Put in place a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system, supported by Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe, to measure progress made on the targets and what must still be done.
  • Ensure the monitoring system is integrated across all EU competences, strategies, policies, programmes and practices and that it supports the prospective Implementation Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the future SDG-aligned European Semester cycles.
  • Feed evidence from evaluation results into policy making. Maintain mandates of e.g. the Joint Research Council, Eurofound and Eurostat (under new EC foresight and better regulation agenda), and the Steering Group on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to help support and undertake the evaluations and analyse outcomes and contribute to this process.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies


An integrated city approach to make healthy sustainable food available to low-income populations. Demonstrates how different sectors and organisations can exchange good practice and work synergistically together to implement actions towards healthy eating.

Restructuring Residential Outdoor Areas

A restructured courtyard in a disadvantaged residential area, with valuable lessons for community engagement and multisectoral work.

Place Standard

A simple framework to enable people to think about and discuss, in a methodical way, the place in which they live. The Mayor’s support was crucial in Skopje.

The Food Garden

Community garden providing organic food for low-income families, staffed by volunteers from vulnerable groups. Provides healthy and sustainable food, work activation and garden education opportunities for vulnerable populations, and increased green space in an urban area.

Restructuring Green Space

Initiative to co-restructure a green space in a low-income neighbourhood in Breda, linked with existing policies and programmes, and with active municipality support.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

INHERIT Policy Brief #3

Shifting to more integrated governance. EuroHealthNet: Brussels.

Policy roundtable (North Macedonia)

National-level policy roundtable (2019) Institute of Public Health, Republic of North Macedonia Health in our urban policies – How healthy are our cities? Academy of Sciences and Arts of the Republic of North Macedonia: Skopje.

Article: the STOEMP network in Ghent

Vos, M., Romeo-Velilla, M., Stegeman, I., et al. (submitted) Qualitative evaluation of the STOEMP network in Ghent: an intersectoral approach to make healthy and sustainable food available to all.

Policy roundtable (EU)

EU-level INHERIT Policy Roundtable report (2019) How can latest research findings contribute to addressing inter-connected societal challenges? EuroHealthNet: Brussels.

Report: Qualitative evaluation on intersectoral cooperation (summary)

Van der Vliet, N., Den Broeder, L., Staatsen & B., Kruize, H. (2019) INHERIT: Success Factors, Barriers and Future of Intersectoral Cooperation: A Qualitative Evaluation of Twelve INHERIT Case Studies. Summary report.

2020-01-17T12:04:52+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys themes|Comments Off on 5. Integrated action