Regional Director: health systems should be accessible to all

Ministry of Health, Greece

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, spoke of the challenges of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in her keynote speech at the opening of the Joint Meeting of Chief Medical, Chief Nursing and Chief Dental Officers, held in Athens, Greece on 4–5 March 2014.

Noting the particular challenges of “old foes” such as tuberculosis and bacterial, parasitic and viral infections, Ms Jakab explained that health systems must adapt in response to increasing migration and travel: “We cannot allow ‘health’ to be used as an argument against travel and migration. Migration is a global phenomenon, and WHO estimates that 1 in every 30 people in the world is a migrant. … Mass population movements have emerged as a considerable risk factor for both chronic and infectious diseases, reducing migrants’ access to timely and affordable health care. Health systems should be accessible to all and must develop their know-how to detect and treat in a timely manner imported diseases which they are unused to.”

During a plenary session on the second day, Ms Jakab made a presentation on reforming the Greek national health service to improve citizens’ health, with Dr Chrysostomos Gounaris, Coordinator of the Health Reform Support Programme of Greece.

The Joint Meeting was organized as part of Greece’s programme of events for its Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). Key issues on the agenda included emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (such as HIV/AIDS and rabies), antimicrobial resistance and the effective protection of immigrants’ health.