JHL (24.02.2017 - Heikki Jokinen) Even though health and social services are to be handed over to the new regional bodies municipalities will continue to play a major role in promoting citizens' wellbeing and health, says Marjo Katajisto, a Special Adviser with JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors.

All public social welfare and health care services in Finland will be transferred from municipalities to the 18 autonomous regions at the beginning of 2019.

Wellbeing and health is achieved, among other things, through education, city and traffic planning, youth services and sports, food and culture services, Katajisto says.

Decisions concerning these will still be the task of the municipalities. Local decision makers are creating the opportunities for an active and healthy life and supporting citizens in their efforts to fulfill a goal that so many seek.

Marjo Katajisto reminds us of the old truism that promoting people’s wellbeing and health saves money. It is, however, easier in the municipal economy to calculate the price of services than show the savings accruing from preventive work.

Local government decisions are always close to the everyday life of citizens. Katajisto encourages decisions makers to ask whether everyone has the possibility to participate in the services provided by the municipality, like leisure time activities, sport and culture.

There are many services that are available to everyone regardless of their wallet or skills. These for example are the nature paths, green areas and cross country ski tracks which are in plentiful supply throughout Finland.

In connection to the 18 autonomous regions being set up to taking care of public social welfare and health care services the question on how to split the tax revenue among these entities and the municipalities is currently being formulated.

The Government is planning to cut the municipal tax and place a cap on municipal tax increases. This might be short-sighted, Katajisto says.

The distribution of tax money among regions and municipalities should guarantee that the basic services of municipalities are not endangered. "A strong municipality must also in the future be able to serve its inhabitants in the way they need", Katajisto says.