EU-WHO meeting addresses critical health systems issues

The 5th Technical Meeting of the EU-Luxembourg-WHO Universal Health Coverage Partnership, held on 21–23 March in Brussels, deliberated on innovative solutions at the country level, to move the universal health coverage (UHC) agenda forward.

The UHC Partnership aims to promote policy dialogue on national health policies, strategies and plans in 28 target countries globally, towards the achievement of UHC by 2030. Current members and target countries from the WHO European Region – Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine – attended the meeting. Georgia was invited as an observer.

Participant countries from the European Region presented illustrative examples of governance arrangements in the context of changing roles of ministries of health in the Region, with an expanding agenda of whole-of-government approaches to health, and to related capacity-building efforts.  An additional focal topic from the Region was that of strategic purchasing of health services, an instrument to ensure that limited public funds are spent in line with health policy objectives. Compared to other regions, countries of the European Region have been especially successful in pooling funds for redistribution to people with the greatest health needs, and in reducing or preventing fragmentation in the flow of funds, allowing strategic purchasing arrangements to flourish.  Fragmentation in funding may lead to overlapping coverage and inefficient resource allocation, with the poor and vulnerable falling through the cracks. This is often due to decentralized fiscal arrangements, competitive private insurers, overlapping health coverage and duplicative donor fund flows, among others.

At the meeting, representatives from ministries of health, WHO, development agencies, decision-making bodies, European institutions, Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, academia and donors also shared experiences and challenges in moving towards UHC. The link between resilient health systems and security (particularly in fragile states), the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals, the importance of strong partnerships, and the relevance of a “health in all policies” approach involving all sectors, were discussed.