WHO Regional Director visits Albania
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, made an official visit to Albania on 27–29 June 2016. She met and had productive discussions with the highest government and parliamentary officials, including the Prime Minister, Minister of Health, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Parliament’s Work, Social Issues and Health Committee. The Regional Director’s visit provided an opportunity to reaffirm the strong relations between WHO/Europe and Albania and to look ahead to the shared challenges, opportunities and priorities for action.
The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation to Dr Jakab for her continuous support of health issues in Albania. The Regional Director stressed how important the Prime Minister’s prioritization of health in his agenda had been, noting that Albania could be proud of its achievements in health and assuring him of continuous support from WHO. Dr Jakab focused on the issue of universal health care coverage as not only a method of comprehensively preventing disease and promoting health but also a mechanism for financial protection for the population. She also referred to finalizing Albania’s national strategy on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), to which WHO has been asked to contribute. The Prime Minister informed the Regional Director of his commitment to increased health financing and coordination of intersectoral work on health issues.
Universal health coverage as focus
During the Regional Director’s meeting with the chair and members of Parliament’s Work, Social Issues and Health Committee, the discussion focused on issues in universal health coverage, the need for increased allocation of funds to the health budget, the linkages between the Sustainable Development Goals and Health 2020, NCDs in Albania and the need for an integrated system of primary health care. The Committee expressed strong interest in working with WHO, given the mandate for intersectoral collaboration. The Regional Director expressed her wish to work more closely with Parliament in legislation development, to support further developments in health policy.
The Regional Director congratulated the Minister of Health on tobacco-free initiatives Albania and suggested that the NCD strategy include more evidence on risk factors. She established the main priority areas for cooperation between WHO/Europe and Albania: expanding e-health and health information systems, making external evaluations of health security and preparedness capacities, and surveying NCD risk factors. Dr Jakab stressed that improving access to high-quality care and bringing services more directly to the people is everyone’s responsibility, and can be achieved by streamlining efforts with other sectors through the health-in-all-policies approach.