Update 1 of the World Health Assembly: highlights for the WHO European Region

The first day of the Seventy-second World Health Assembly opened with Member States diving directly into discussions about some of WHO’s most fundamental priorities, such as implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and universal health coverage (UHC).

Professor Sir Michael Marmot of the United Kingdom received the WHO Director-General’s Health Leaders recognition for his long-standing work on addressing health inequalities, as well as his engagement in several international research efforts on the determinants of health.

Professor Marmot was Chair of the European review of social determinants of health and the health divide, which provided evidence on social determinants of health across the Region to support countries in implementing Health 2020 and increasing health equity.

Plenary addresses

Countries of the WHO European Region, including France, Germany, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Turkey and the United Kingdom, expressed their unwavering commitment to UHC and emphasized that it is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Delegates from Kazakhstan, Sweden and other countries also underlined the vital role of primary health care in extending the benefits of UHC to everyone.

Several countries, including Latvia and the Russian Federation, noted their appreciation for close collaboration with WHO. They highlighted the important function the Organization serves by bringing countries and other partners together to work collectively to improve health. A number of delegates also referenced their countries’ strong support for WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work.

Member States, including Romania speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed a progress report on implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and noted that countries have made significant progress in many areas. However, they also underlined areas that demand greater attention and accelerated action, such as antimicrobial resistance, drug and alcohol use, family planning, air pollution and climate change, among others. Delegates from European countries stressed the need to focus on vulnerable groups and ensure that they are not left behind.

Bilateral meetings

  • Slovenia: Dr Piroska Ӧstlin, Acting WHO Regional Director for Europe, and the Minister of Health of Slovenia discussed the upcoming conference on health equity that will take place in Ljubljana in June, which is of great interest to both European countries and other WHO regions. Dr Ӧstlin congratulated the Minister on forthcoming recognition for the country’s work on tobacco control and once again welcomed Slovenia as a new member of the Small Countries Initiative. The Minister explained the challenges facing the health system in Slovenia, such as the need to strengthen primary health care and find new ways to finance it. Dr Ӧstlin noted Slovenia’s ability to ensure UHC for its population and pointed out that its health indicators are above the European average, putting it in a strong position to make further improvements.
  • Republic of Moldova: In conversation with the Minister of Health of the Republic of Moldova, Dr Ӧstlin expressed thanks for the country’s participation in the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee. She congratulated the Minister on the country’s health sector reform – particularly the ambitious plan to reform primary health care. Their discussions also covered the Ministry of Health’s progress on the digitalization of health care and the country’s strong response to a measles outbreak, as well as human resources for health and migrant health.