HELSINKI, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- As EU ministers and experts on Thursday wound up their two-day conference on wellbeing and economy in Helsinki, Anna-Kaisa Pekonen, the Finnish Minister for Health and Social Affairs, underlined the need "to go beyond the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)" in European economic analysis.
Pekonen said that the balance between economic progress and social cohesion lies at the heart of European integration. "This is the European competitive advantage in global competition," she said.
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, a UK State Secretary, told the conference that Britain's chief medical officer has just recommended new "composite health index". It would be tracked alongside the GDP.
She said in a roundtable of ministers that there is increasing support in Britain for viewing health as primary asset of the nation, contributing to the economy and wellbeing.
Blackwood said that the combined cost of joblessness and bad health amounts 100 billion pounds (125.3 billion U.S. dollars) annually, and out of it 50 billion is a government cost. She said that one out of five working age persons in Britain have a common mental condition.
IIdiko Horvath, Hungarian State Secretary for Health, said Europe-wide information is not available about serious illness caused by the e-cigarettes among young people.
She gave the situation as an example where Europe could do something. She described the action of the tobacco companies "as acts against human wellbeing". She said companies also make fake news now.
Linas Kukuraitis, Minister of Social Security and Labor from Lithuania, recalled that after getting independence Lithuania had a trend where economy was "going one way and social policy into another."
Now the society has already figured out it was wrong, he said. Economy should still be the driving force, but helping wellbeing for everyone, he added.
Commenting on the conference to Xinhua, Veli-Mikko Niemi, the director of international affairs at the Finnish ministry for social affairs and health, said that there has been "a change in the political atmosphere" related to social and health. He attributed it to new research that has proven that cutbacks "in wrong places" result in severe repercussions.
Niemi noted that within the EU "the social dimension" has been viewed as a separate matter. Now the Finnish initiative tries to show the connection to the economy.
He said one of the difficult issues is the definition of minimum social security, as the systems in different countries vary.
Niemi said one of the aims of the conference was to get new concrete examples and that had worked well.