Health 2020 and health system strengthening on agenda during official visit to Belarus
WHO Regional Director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab visited Belarus on 28–29 November 2013, to discuss how WHO/Europe is working to promote stronger health systems, despite the current economic crisis.
During the visit, Ms Jakab gave a presentation to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) health council, and met with Dr Vasily Zharko, Minister of Health of Belarus and Dr Jean-Elie Malkin, Director, Regional Support Team, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The presentation outlined success stories in the WHO European Region, such as the gain of 5 years in life expectancy over a period of 30 years and the 54% decrease in maternal mortality. The Regional Director also described the key factors in the increasing inequalities in health between and within European countries, and how they could be addressed.
“Public spending on health has fallen in many countries – sometimes in countries where it was already very low by European standards,” she said, but “faced with reduced health budgets, many countries made efforts to ensure that patients did not suffer as a result.” They did this by introducing needed reforms and by trying to use available resources more efficiently.
Specific health challenges in Belarus include high levels of tobacco and alcohol consumption, increasing numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS (many infected with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) and high levels of fatal injuries.
Biennial collaborative agreement signed
A highlight of the visit was the signing of the new biennial collaborative agreement (BCA) between the Ministry of Health of Belarus and WHO/Europe for 2014–2015. Priority areas include: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cancer screening, alcohol and tobacco use, mental health, child injury prevention, integrated management of childhood illnesses, primary health care, human resources for health, and pharmaceuticals and antimicrobial resistance.
WHO/Europe and Belarus will continue to work together to solve current health issues and plan for future events, including the Ice Hockey World Championship to be hosted by the country in May 2014.