Twenty years of explaining the evidence – the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

WHO/Erik Peinar

This year sees the 20th anniversary of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, which was established in 1998 and has been helping to shape research into health systems and policy research ever since.

In celebration of the occasion, a special issue of the journal Health Policy has been published. It contains 10 articles with results from international comparative studies and recommendations for policy-makers regarding various areas of reform and debate, including strategic purchasing, country experiences in paying hospital specialists, voluntary private health insurance, pharmaceutical pricing agreements and promoting physical activity.

In the 20 years since its establishment, the Observatory has become one of the leading international knowledge brokers in the field of health system reforms. Speaking on the occasion of the kick-off the Observatory’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said, “When it was established, the European Observatory was ahead of its time in bringing together national and regional governments, academics and international organizations. This model of collaboration for health policy-making has proved prescient both for implementing Health 2020 and for delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Review of the Estonian health system

During the recent high-level regional meeting Health Systems for Prosperity and Solidarity: leaving no one behind, held in Tallinn, Estonia, on 13–14 June 2018, the Observatory presented the latest Health Systems in Transition (HiT) report on the Estonian health system.

HiTs are country-based reports that provide a detailed description of each health-care system and of reform and policy initiatives in progress or under development. The HiT report on Estonia reviews recent developments in organization and governance, health financing, health-care provision, health reforms and health system performance in the country.

Among other things, the HiT highlights the decision taken by the Estonian Government in 2017 to broaden the revenue base by introducing gradually increasing government contributions on behalf of pensioners – an action that demonstrates Estonia’s commitment to the Tallinn Charter.

More than 60 HiT reports have been produced in the last 20 years for countries within and outside the WHO European Region. Each report is produced by country experts in collaboration with the Observatory’s research directors and staff. HiTs seek to provide relevant information to support policy-makers and analysts in the development of health systems in Europe and are continually updated.

The strength of partnership

Since its creation in 1998, the Observatory has been developing an evidence base to support policy-makers in running, reforming and strengthening health systems. It brings together international agencies, national governments, decentralized authorities and research institutions in a partnership uniquely placed to promote evidence-based policy-making in health. Working together with a broad international network of researchers and policy-makers, the Observatory team analyses the complexities and dynamics of health systems.