Towards a new national strategy on health and environment in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

WHO

Opening of the workshop (from left to right: Dr Srdan Matic, Coordinator, Environment and Health, WHO/Europe, Ms Snezhana Chichevalieva, Head of WHO Country Office, Dr Jovanka Kostovska, Head of Preventive Health Care Sector, Ministry of Health, Mr Stevo Temelkovski, Deputy Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning, Dr Zoran Gjorgievski, Coordinator of the Parliamentary Committee for Health).

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the first country in the WHO European Region to initiate a process for the development of a national strategy for health and environment with direct support from WHO/Europe. The strategy aims to stimulate environmental health policies in the health sector and address the main environmental determinants of health in the country.

The Governmental Committee on Health and Environment, established in September 2013 with the aim to enhance coordination and cross-sector efforts in areas of environmental and public health relevance, initiated the strategy development process at a 2-day workshop with national and WHO experts which took place 1–2 October 2014 in Skopje.

The workshop was the first in a series of meetings that will ensure an inclusive process for the development of the strategy by creating synergies between relevant responsible institutions and sectors in the area of health and environment, as well as identifying key priorities of the strategy.
Opening the meeting, Dr Zoran Gjorgjievski, the Coordinator of the Parliamentary Committee for Health, pledged political engagement and support to this inclusive process towards improved environment and health in the country. In addition, Mr Stevo Temelkovski, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, emphasized the political commitment of the environmental sector to closer involvement in coordinating activities. In turn, Dr Srdan Matic, Coordinator for Environment and Health, WHO/Europe, and Ms Snezhana Chichevalieva, Head of the WHO Country Office, expressed continued WHO support to the Ministries.

European Environment and Health Process

During the workshop, Dr Srdan Matic presented the European Environment and Health Process (EHP), to which WHO/Europe provides the secretariat. WHO experts from the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany, presented the findings of preparatory assessment missions undertaken in March and May 2014, covering the areas of air pollution and industrial contamination. First results of the economic analysis of the impact of air pollution and heat waves in the city of Skopje were presented as well. This study was undertaken in 2014 as part of the Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for cities (RAMSES) project, funded by the European Commission.

Some 40 participants from different governmental sectors, including health, environment, crisis management, meteorological, and food safety services and inspectorates; civil society; and local government paved the way for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to a national public health policy, ensuring that the strategy will be aligned with the princples of the  European policy framework Health 2020.