Continuing to strengthen primary health care in Belarus to better address health needs related to NCDs
The Government of Belarus places a high priority on health, as shown by the relatively high public sector expenditure on health as proportion of total government expenditures. However, growing prevalence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and increasing NCDs-related hospitalization rates, which are among the highest in the WHO European Region, put significant burden on the country health system. The Government has addressed this by committing to modernize primary health care, which should now play a more prevalent role in preventing, diagnosing and managing patients with NCDs.
This implies that individuals, clinicians and policy-makers need to rethink the scope of practices and professional competencies so that primary health care teams can provide health education and motivational counselling to their patients, and engage them in self-management. Care pathways must also be revised so that patients can benefit from more coordinated, comprehensive and continuous care.
WHO/Europe supports work in this direction in the context of the European Union-funded BELMED project. To this end, WHO/Europe organized a technical visit to Belarus from 27 February to 3 March 2017 to support the implementation of activities related to the revision of patient pathways and the scope of practices of family doctors and nurses in order to improve prevention and management of NCDs in pilot primary health care practices.
Representatives of health facility administrations as well as general practitioners and nurses from 2 pilot sites – Polyclinic #39 in Minsk and Central Rayon Hospital in Gorki region – met to design and discuss a new health services delivery model of primary care. The new model aims to improve prevention, diagnostics and management of targeted NCDs, including arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Guided discussions established a joint vision and shared commitment for the next phase of this important reform.
BELMED is an overarching project entitled “Preventing noncommunicable diseases, promoting healthy lifestyle and support to modernization of the health system in Belarus 2016–2019”. It is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Ministry of Health of Belarus in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and WHO.