Focusing on quality of care to advance the Sustainable Development Goals in the European Region


Global policies have recognized quality as essential being to the pursuit of universal health coverage, target 3.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Quality is not a static concept, however.

The concept of quality of care has evolved over the past two decades from a notion of human error and negligence to an understanding that it arises as a result of well performing health systems. Over time, multiple approaches have contributed to the quality-of-care discourse and the recognition of its importance to improving health outcomes.

This evolution has been paralleled by the ever-changing context of health and demographics in a context of increasing patient expectations, data-mining and new technologies and medicines. National and regional health authorities are renewing their focus on quality of care, system performance and health outcomes while stakeholders – including professional and patient representatives – are assuming new roles in this area.

The WHO European Centre for Primary Health Care (WECPHC) of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health hosted a first brainstorming, review and planning exercise for rejuvenating quality of care in the context of the SDG agenda on 3–6 April. Country delegations from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, experts and WHO staff participated.

The event revealed that countries have made enormous progress in developing and implementing mechanisms for quality improvement, with new actors contributing to the agenda.  Links between quality improvement initiatives and actors are less clear, however, and big gaps exist in understandings of the feedback processes necessary to ensure that learning loops are established for continuous quality improvement in health facilities and professional development. Participants agreed that work towards developing an overarching accountability framework to steer development in this area is needed.

The initiative was organized in the context of implementation of the European Framework for Action on Integrated Health Services Delivery. The WECPHC supports Member States in their commitments to strengthening health services delivery based on a primary-health-care approach.