Shift to engaging citizens and patients in health services needed

Speaking at the European Chief Medical Officers’ Meeting, held in Warsaw, Poland on 6–7 October 2011, Professor José Maria Martin-Moreno, Director, Programme Management at WHO/Europe, called for a shift from top-down control over public health to engaging citizens and patients in health services, because of the importance of behavioural risk factors in causing noncommunicable diseases.

During the Meeting, chief medical officers discussed and shared their experience with health and health policy issues of everyday importance to doctors in European countries.

“There is unquestionable evidence that noncommunicable diseases now constitute more than 85% of the disease burden in the WHO European Region. The major importance of behavioural risk factors in disease etiology implies a shift to engaging citizens and patients in health services,” commented Professor Moreno. He also highlighted the importance of the health ministry’s leadership in reaching out to other sectors and in ensuring the integration of public health services within the health care system. Primary and specialized health care professionals have a key role in educating citizens, preventing disease, promoting healthy lifestyles, monitoring health status and providing health information to the community.

During the Meeting, Poland’s recent achievements in establishing a modern and efficient system of medical emergency services were described. Dr Paulina Miskiewicz, Head of the WHO Country Office, Poland, explained the collaboration between WHO/Europe and the Ministry of Health on disaster preparedness and response for hospitals, crisis management and preparation for mass gatherings.

Since 1 July 2011, Poland has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), and organized many formal and informal meetings. Its two main priorities in the area of public health are:

  • closing the health gap in European societies; and
  • preventing brain and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer disease.