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Health insurance group takes up environmental health


Brussels, 20 June 2011

Health insurers tackle environmental causes of disease

The International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM), which brings together over 38 members representing federations of not-for-profit health insurance societies in 23 countries, has decided to work with the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) in a strategic partnership to improve prevention of chronic diseases caused, or facilitated, by environmental factors.

Philippe Swennen, Director of Projects for AIM, said: “This is an important step forward for mutual benefit societies, and we look forward to making a difference by adding the voices and the weight of the public health insurers to the environmental health prevention community in Europe.”

At the AIM Annual General Meeting last week, Genon Jensen, Executive Director, HEAL outlined to AIM’s members some possible joint activities, including on awareness-raising, research, information exchange and sharing of best practice on environmental health prevention measures. The two organisations are already conducting a survey to ascertain the current activities, interests and needs in environmental health of AIM’s members.

Ms Jensen said, “We’re delighted to be working more closely with AIM. As a key constituency in health prevention and promotion, AIM’s expertise and concerns about important environmental issues will greatly strengthen our message to policy makers. This global network of social health insurance societies can also help HEAL to share more widely important, scientifically-founded prevention tips, for example, on how to improve indoor air quality at home."

Last June, AIM released a declaration noting their resolve to make a more visible, clearer commitment to the understanding and prevention of environmental effects on public health. It represented the outcome of AIM’s first international conference on health and environment in Brussels.

In the years since AIM was founded in 1950, the overall nature of social protection has changed greatly. Contributing factors include the rising costs of healthcare, rising rates of chronic diseases, the ageing of the population, scientific progress, and the globalisation of the economy. In parallel, the environment has become increasingly important in health matters; climate change-related heat waves, air pollution, the long-term effects of chemicals in air, food, water, the working environment, electromagnetic fields, and nanoparticles affect, or may affect, public health.

Belgian mutual benefit societies - Brochure FRAs well as activity at the international level, some national mutual groups and societies are working on environment and health. For example, in France, the Mutuelle Familiale and the National Federation of French Mutual (Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française) have signed a partnership agreement with the HEAL member organisation, Réseau Santé Environnement, to collaborate on environmental health projects.

The Belgian mutual benefit societies have founded a working group on environmental health and produced a brochure on the subject for their members (in French, Dutch and English coming soon). Geert Messiaen, Secretary General of Liberal Mutual Benefit Societies (Landsbond van Liberale Mutualiteiten (LLM)) in Belgium says, “It is time to act to deal with the increasing damage of diseases caused by the environment. Our collaboration with HEAL will take us beyond single conferences and powerfully integrate our information sharing, educational and prevention actions.”

AIM has applied to become a member of HEAL (1) as have all six federations of Belgian mutual benefit societies (2).


(1) HEAL’s Annual General Meeting will consider the applications for membership in October 2011.

(2) Union Nationale des Mutualités Libres (MLOZ); Nationaal Verbond van Socialistische Mutualiteiten (NVSM); Caisse des soins de santé de la SNCB Holding (CSS); Landsbond van Liberale Mutualiteiten (LLM); Caisse Auxiliaire d’Assurance Maladie - Invalidité (CAAMI) / Hulpkas voor Ziekte- en Invaliditeitsverzekering (HZIV); and, Union Nationale des Mutualités Neutrés (UNMN).


Genon Jenson, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance, Tel: +32 2 234 3642, Email:,

Philippe Swennen, Director of Projects, International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies, Tel: +32 234 5700, Email:,

The International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies is an umbrella association of not-for-profit autonomous bodies which brings together not-for-profit health insurers defending the concept of universal access to healthcare covering health and social risks. AIM has over 38 members representing federations of mutual benefit societies in 23 countries. Website:

Last updated on 12 July 2011

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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