European Conference puts spotlight on Greek health system reform

12 December 2013. (From left) Mr Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Health of Greece; Dr Hans Kluge, Director of Health Systems and Public Health, WHO/Europe; Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe; and Mr Toni Borg, European Commissioner for Health at the High-level Conference on Greek Reforms in the Health Sector reforms held in Athens, Greece, 12-13 December 2013

Key stakeholders from the Greek and international communities met in Athens on 12–13 December 2013 on the occasion of the High-level Conference on the Greek Reforms in the Health Sector: Improving Citizens’ Health to discuss how to boost the country’s health sector as part of the Greek health reform. The Conference was opened by high-level officials from the Greek Government and regional authorities. Experts from the public and private sectors, the academic community and civil society also took part. The Conference was organized by the Ministry of Health of Greece in collaboration with WHO/Europe.

The Conference signals the start of the implementation of the Health in Action initiative, which was set up in 2012 by the Greek Government to address the impacts of the economic collapse on health with the aim of reforming the Greek health system.The event was followed by other periodical meetings, thematic workshops and public debate on the reform process.

“Our intention is to create a modern and sustainable health system based on the principles of universality, equity, quality, sustainability and health in all policies”, stated Mr Spyridon-Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Health of Greece. “We will not be alone in our long journey as international organizations and other countries support us in reshaping the Greek health system”, he added.

Priority issues discussed in relation to the impact of the economic crisis included how to assure the quality of and access to the health and social services and how to integrate them, as well as possibilities for improving the management processes and tools for strengthening public health. The event also served as an opportunity to discuss the health-related priorities, which the Government will bring on board during the Greek Presidency of the EU, starting in January 2014.

The Conference was opened by His Beatitude Hieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece and Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, who expressed his support for the structural health-system reforms. Mr Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, stressed the importance of the primary health care reform in Greece, which is in line with the Alma Ata Declaration on PHC, and acknowledged the strong support of WHO/Europe in this endeavour, including the presence of Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at the Conference.

Key-note speakers included Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, Mr Toni Borg, European Commissioner for Health, and Mr Thomas Ilka, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health of Germany. In her presentation on “Strengthening health systems in Europe in the context of the financial crisis”, Ms Jakab shared lessons learnt across the European Region that are relevant to the Greek context within the Health 2020 policy framework.

On the second day, Dr Hans Kluge, Director of Health Systems and Public Health, WHO/Europe, delivered a key-note presentation on the impact of the crisis on health and health systems within the context of universal health coverage, people-centred sustainable heath systems and change management.

In July 2013, WHO/Europe and the Ministry of Health of Greece signed a contribution agreement whereby a WHO team based at the Ministry of Health in Athens would support action related to structural reform, especially in primary health care and public health, as well as horizontal action across the different pillars of reform.