Latvian Minister of Health visits WHO/Europe


Juris Barzdins, Minister of Health of Latvia

On 24 February 2011, Juris Barzdins, Minister of Health of Latvia, met with Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. The meeting included discussions on WHO/Europe’s continuing contribution to the development of the Latvian public health strategy, and gave the Minister an opportunity to learn more about WHO/Europe’s work.

Mr Barzdins expressed his thanks for WHO’s work, and invited Ms Jakab to visit Latvia for the parliamentary debates on the public health strategy. Other issues discussed included:

  • the new European health policy, Health 2020;
  • World Health Day 2011, which focuses in Europe on antibiotic resistance;
  • European Immunization Week in April; and
  • the health status of Latvia compared with the rest of the WHO European Region, including possible public health interventions to address gaps.

Life expectancy in Latvia is 71.2 years, below the average for the Region (75.4). Key health concerns include heavy spirits consumption, high binge-drinking levels and widespread tobacco use. Private household out-of-pocket expenditure comprises nearly 40% of total health expenditure in the country: one of the highest proportions in the European Union.

WHO’s work with Latvia

WHO/Europe’s current work with the Ministry of Health of Latvia focuses on:

  • strengthening health policy and the health system;
  • promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing risk factors; and
  • preventing avoidable mortality and disability.

In September 2010, WHO experts spoke at the Latvian parliament on the health-budget challenges facing the country due to the economic crisis.

WHO’s technical assistance in the development of the public health strategy includes support for policy dialogue and stakeholder engagement, a content review and policy recommendations. Consultations began in 2011, and a technical workshop on health indicators is planned for March 2011, to be followed by a broader cross-sectoral consultation organized by WHO/Europe in early April.