I had a magnificent trip to Sweden Jan 8-17, 2010. I was speaking to groups of social democratic politicians about Canadian health policy. I got know a lot of Swedes, from all political perspectives. I started off in Stockholm where I spoke to some national politicians and county level politicians who are responsible for doctors and hospitals and a fair bit of community services. There are 22 Swedish counties and their responsibilities include health care, transportation and culture. They don’t have the regionalism you see in Canada or Spain. It’s a much more homogeneous country. There are non-white faces in Stockholm but not much outside.
After three days in Stockholm, I went to Uppsala 80 km north of Stockholm where my main hosts live. I met the Uppsala County social democratic health committee in October 2008 when they Ire touring Toronto. They have an annual meeting with social democratic party health care committees from five counties around Stockholm and I was the keynote speaker. One of the interesting things I noticed was the dislike of the capital (Stockholm) by the regional folks, much the way all Canadians seem to carry a dislike for Toronto as the home of the place with the money. The conference was held at a 13th century castle just outside of Uppsala.
After two nights in Uppsala and then I took a train to Tallberg about 300 km NW of Stockholm. Tallberg is small (pop 1000) but Big (1200 hotel rooms). It is a major tourist town on a large beautiful lake. It is known as the real Sweden and from the train the countryside looked like it probably looked hundreds years ago — lots of red log houses, cleared plots with small farms, and lots of forest. About 1850 some Swedish artist relocated here and restored a 17th century log house and then the town and its tourism took off. Of course I was there in low season.
The last night in Tallberg my wife and I were guests for dinner at the home of Christina. She is the step-grand daughter of Olof Aschberg who set up the first private bank in the USSR with Lenin’s blessings. The dinner included the president of the local branch of the Moderate party (the senior member of the current ruling right wing coalition) and the mayor of Tallberg district who was a member of a party in the left wing coalition. The Moderate Party person and his wife had lived in Toronto and the US so they had a particularly interesting perspective. However, I concluded that Swedish moderates’ basic philosophy was not that much different from what most social democrats would support in Canada.
For more on Swedish health care see:
- Health and medical Care fact sheet Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs 2007
- Quality and Efficiency in Swedish Health Care: Regional Comparisons 2007.
- The Organization of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. 2009
For more on Swedish politics and the race leading up to this September’s election, see the Wikipedia article on the 2010 Swedish general election.
Here is a presentation I gave to the five counties meeting.
Here’s a picture of me with my main hosts Bertil Kinnunen an organizer for the Social Democratic Party in Uppsala County and Lena Rönnberg who is the chair of the party’s health committee.