Greece and WHO/Europe intensify collaboration in the area of public health

WHO

The Greek Government expressed its intention to strengthen public health services and increase capacity to address priority public health issues in the coming years, during a recent evaluation visit by a team from the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

The visit was organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Greece for 28 November – 01 December 2016 to assess the organization of public health services, identify key stakeholders at central and local levels and initiate work on the following priorities:

  • development of a medium-term public health strategy for Greece;
  • specification of public health responsibilities of primary health care providers;
  • organization of a high-level policy event dedicated to public health, with the involvement of all major stakeholders in the country.

The evaluation visit took place within the “Strengthening capacity for universal coverage” (SCUC) action, which supports Greece’s move towards universal health coverage. The agenda included meetings and discussions with the Secretary-General for Public Health and his team, other Ministry of Health staff and representatives of local public authorities. The WHO/Europe team also visited the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO), National School of Public Health, National Health Operations Centre (EKEPY) and Eleonas refugee camp.

The organization and scope of traditional public health services in Greece have not been systematically adjusted to meet contemporary behavioural and environmental risk factors at individual and population levels. Existing services are fragmented and major health risks such as tobacco smoking, overweight and obesity and inadequate road safety are not properly addressed. Moreover, the low status of public health professionals compared to other clinical disciplines is causing difficulties for attracting staff to fill positions in public health services.

The four-day evaluation visit also included joint group discussions between external and local experts to identify priorities for a public health strategy, defining the scope of a public health module of services to be provided at primary health care level. Agreement was also sought on the concept, structure, main topics, expected outcomes and participants of the policy event dedicated to public health, which was scheduled for the end of March 2017.

Background on the SCUC action

The SCUC action is carried out with funding by the European Union through a grant agreement between the European Commission and the WHO Regional Office for Europe. Its general objective is to contribute to improving health and health equity in Greece, especially among the most vulnerable in the crisis-stricken population, by helping the Greek authorities move towards universal coverage and strengthen the effectiveness, efficiency and resilience of their health system.