National workshop on asbestos-related diseases held in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

WHO

From left to right: Professor Sonja Topuzovska, Professor Jovanka Karadzinska-Bislimovska, Dr Elizabet Paunovic, and Ms Snezana Chichevalieva.

The WHO Country Office in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Institute for Occupational Health (a WHO collaborating centre), hosted a national workshop on asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) on 12 October 2016 at the Medical Faculty of Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje.

The workshop was organized alongside the 12th meeting of the South East European (SEE) Network on Workers’ Health and the second national congress on occupational health.

The objectives of the workshop were to:

  • present proposals concerning the national plan for the elimination of ARDs (NPEAD) and identify further steps required for its successful implementation, in line with the national strategy for health and the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • provide an update on the progress achieved in the region on the development of national programmes for the elimination of ARDs;
  • agree on further steps to be implemented within the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health in the European Region, and steps to be taken in relation to the SEE Network plan of action.

The 32 participants represented various national and regional organizations, including the Institute for Occupational Health, the National Council for Safety and Health at Work, the State Labour Inspectorate, the Federation of Trade Unions, the Organization of Employers, the Association for Safety and Health at Work, the Association of General Practice/Family Medicine of South-East Europe and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, representatives of six countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) participated as observers.

The workshop was opened by Professor Sonja Topuzovska, Dean of the Medical Faculty, Ms Snezana Chichevalieva, Head of the WHO Country Office, Dr Elizabet Paunovic, Head of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn, Germany, and Professor Jovanka Karadzinska-Bislimovska, Head of the Institute of Occupational Health and President of the National Council for Safety and Health at Work.

Dr Paunovic referred to recommendations made by WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO), pointing out that the most efficient way to eliminate ARDs is to stop using all forms of asbestos. She stressed the health importance of the elimination of ARDs for Member States in the Region, explained the international policy framework, and provided an update on current WHO activities and new policy frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals and Health 2020. Professor Karadzinska-Bislimovska described the process of development of the NPEAD.

During the second session, representatives of countries in the region described progress made in elimination of ARDs, stressing the gaps and possibilities for improvement, as well as the need for support from WHO/Europe.
The workshop closed with conclusions and recommendations for finalization of the process of developing the NPEAD that will enable realization of the goals contained in the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health.

The participants agreed that the first step in the process of implementation of the NPEAD at national level should be the establishment of a multisectoral committee for the elimination of ARDs within the Ministry of Health, comprising representatives of all key partners, which will target, coordinate and control activities planned in the NPEAD. The planned activities should be implemented in collaboration with WHO/Europe at national, regional and local levels.

Background

The Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, held in Parma, Italy, in 2010 adopted the Parma Declaration on Environment and Health. One of the commitments made by the Member States of the WHO European Region in that Declaration was to develop by 2015 national programmes for the elimination of ARDs in collaboration with WHO and the ILO. This follows the request of Member States to the WHO Secretariat to conduct a global campaign for the elimination of ARDs and the adoption of the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health for 2008–2017.

Following the Belgrade Statement, adopted by ministers of health of the SEE Health Network Member States in 2015, a national workshop on implementation of the Global Plan of Action was organized with the support of the WHO Country Office in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Occupational Health, in May 2015. The aim of the workshop was to initiate the process of developing the NPEAD, and to develop a platform for further intersectoral and multidisciplinary action in this area.

It was agreed that the NPEAD should be a consensus policy document developed through intersectoral action among experts in the field that outlines the magnitude of the problem and strategies for the elimination of ARDs, based on the national strategy for health and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Based on the conclusions of the workshop in 2015, the Institute of Occupational Health developed the NPEAD.