Portugal surpasses performance of the EU-15 group on 11 key health performance indicators

According to WHO/Europe, in 2008 44% of the indicators of the National Health Plan had either reached their target or were on track to reach them by the end of 2010. Taking into consideration indicators for which comparisons are possible, for about 80% of these indicators performance is improving and for 11 of them performance is better than the average for the European-Union-15 group. “Portugal has reached many challenging health goals over the last years and is commendable for the focus of the government on achieving health gains; the next frontier for Portugal like for many other European Countries will be to address sustainability concerns and health inequalities as part of the next National Health Plan”, said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

The Ministry of Health of Portugal considers the National Health Plan as a fundamental instrument for attaining health gains for the Portuguese population. The High Commissioner for Health of Portugal, Professor Maria do Céu Machado, required the WHO Regional Office for Europe – through a collaboration agreement signed in 2008 – to carry out an external evaluation of the relevance, implementation and impact of the current National Health Plan, in order to better prepare the development of the next National Health Plan (2011–2016).

The results of this evaluation are based on: a statistical forecast of the indicators of the National Health Plan and of its respective targets; a functional analysis of the Portuguese health system; interviews with over 100 health system stakeholders at national, regional and local level; two round tables gathering international and national experts; and a selective review of the scientific literature.

The evaluation points to a number of significant findings: a large consensus was reached at national level on health and health gain priorities; the transparent and regular monitoring of a large set of performance indicators; and improvements in performance for key indicators which reached the EU-15 average, in particular: mortality from ischemic heart disease; mortality from car accidents; and mortality from breast cancer.

WHO/Europe highlighted a number of areas for improvement, for instance equity in health outcomes and in access to quality health care services; and health system sustainability, which are key strategies for the National Health Plan 2011–2016. This plan is under development and led by the office of the High Commissioner for Health, with support from the Minister of Health. “The Ministry of Health of Portugal is committed to bringing the policy recommendations of the WHO Regional Office for Europe forward in order to achieve better health for the people of Portugal, ensure the sustainability of the health system and reduce health inequalities” said Professor Maria do Céu Machado.