Regional Director addresses Nordic Council of Ministers

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, explained that tackling health inequalities is a central aim in the development of Health 2020, the new European policy for health and well-being, in a round-table discussion at the Nordic Council of Ministers for Health and Social Affairs meeting in Vaasa, Finland on 20 June 2011.

Ms Jakab explained that health inequalities, measured through life expectancy, are very apparent when national data are broken down by region, even in high-income areas such as the Nordic region.

The vision driving Health 2020 is: “A WHO European Region where all peoples are enabled and supported in achieving their full health potential and well-being, and in which countries, individually and jointly, work towards reducing inequalities in health within the Region and beyond”.

This new policy is needed now, according to Ms Jakab, because health is not only a human right and a public good but also an asset for development. Health 2020 will be an invaluable tool for policy-makers in the health and other sectors, providing a value-based framework for health development, strategic goals, realistic targets for the European Region and tools for planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Ms Jakab also outlined how WHO/Europe is supporting countries in the Region in tackling the burden of noncommunicable diseases, challenges to mental health and the harmful use of alcohol.