Implementing Health 2020 – strengthening the role of national professional officers


National professional officers (NPOs) from 13 European country offices met at WHO/Europe on 24–26 November 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark, for training aimed at strengthening their role in developing and implementing national health policies in alignment with Health 2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Participants were trained on how to develop national health policies, as well as on how to involve national stakeholders in their implementation. Participants were informed on:

  • recent WHO regional activities such as the WHO European Ministerial Conference on the Life-course Approach in the Context of Health 2020; and
  • the latest development in health system governance, noncommunicable diseases and the global framework for mainstreaming gender, equity and rights at country level.

They gained an understanding of the different stages in health policy development, the challenges that can be encountered and the strategies to overcome these. Participants were given tools and instruments developed by WHO/Europe to support Member States in facilitating the formulation of health policies and strategies, including monitoring and evaluation. WHO/Europe also put forward recommendations such as developing an overarching national health policy, strengthening intersectoral action and governance, and including health in all policies.

Vital role of NPOs

The training emphasized the vital roles that NPOs play in developing national health policies aligned with Health 2020, as they are the people on the front line working with national technical counterparts and supporting the WHO country offices' work. This includes:

  • providing technical guidelines and support
  • communicating effectively at all levels
  • representing a leadership role in health and the United Nations
  • fostering collaboration and partnership
  • providing international evidence and best practices
  • identifying actions with which to prioritize, monitor and report.

The meeting was an opportunity for participants to share their experience in developing national health policies and strategies, and to articulate their needs for promoting Health 2020 effectively. This includes the facilitation and coordination of related operations. Participants requested further investment into the establishment of a NPOs' network, which would bring about the change for better health gains at country level.

Alignment of Health 2020 and the Sustainable Development Goals

Health 2020 strongly emphasizes improving health for all and reducing health inequalities, as well as working across sectors and government to improve leadership and participatory governance for health. The Sustainable Development Goals and Health 2020, therefore, are fully aligned. A truly transformative shift would be required to implement an integrated approach to sustainable development, and to ensure that every person's health and wealth and human rights are respected and no one is left behind. National health policies face the challenge of being a tool to achieve that transformative shift at the national or local levels.

The meeting was organized as part of WHO support to Member States in health policy development and implementation by the Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being.