Public health at the centre of a sustainable future


Dr Östlin speaks at the Third All-Russian Forum on Public Health.

Commitment to public health and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as ongoing and future cooperation between WHO and the Russian Federation, were centre stage as WHO Regional Director for Europe ad interim, Dr Piroska Östlin, attended the Third All-Russian Forum on Public Health and the NCD Investment Case Forum last week.

Speaking at the All-Russian Forum, Dr Östlin commented on the importance of the SDGs: “The SDGs and the 169 related targets for their achievement are the roadmap for realizing human development potential and addressing human development challenges. This is the world’s vision and agenda for a sustainable future, and it is our responsibility to ensure not only that it is achieved, but also that people are healthy and happy enough to appreciate it”.

Taking place in Moscow, Russian Federation on 14–15 October 2019, the All-Russian Forum on Public Health provided a platform for intersectoral discussions for almost 2000 participants on a range of public health topics. These include the fight against cancer, corporate health, healthy nutrition, physical activity, public health in social media, the role of school in developing a healthy lifestyle, and healthy ageing, among others.

Dr Östlin highlighted the importance of multisectoral action, saying that “[the contemporary] disease burden cannot be effectively addressed by medicine or health professionals alone”. She added that “we must address the wider determinants of health, and this requires a new and transformative model of governance for health and well-being; one that supports a new vision – focused on promoting greater health and well-being in a sustainable way, reducing inequalities and strengthening integrated public health services”.

The All-Russian Forum showcased the Russian Federation’s commitment to achieving the SDGs by 2030, a target acknowledged by Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Deputy Director-General, in her video welcome address at the opening. Dr Jakab pointed out that the fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and promotion of mental health are among the central pillars of global public health action.

Dr Östlin also met with the Deputy Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, Dr Oleg Salagay, to discuss ongoing WHO–Russian Federation cooperation in a wide range of public health initiatives, as well as prospects for future collaboration.

Alongside the Third All-Russian Forum on Public Health, the United Nations Interagency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (UNIATF) organized a 2-day NCD Investment Case Forum. This included the participation of high-level officials from the ministries of health and finance from 18 countries which had received support from UNIATF in the development of national NCD investment cases; high-level representatives from the Russian Federation; and participants from WHO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other United Nations agencies. Dr Östlin welcomed the international guests and experts, and thanked the Russian Federation for funding investment cases in 11 countries, as well as supporting the development of a roster of economists and experts to undertake this important work.