Day 2 of the World Health Assembly: highlights for the European Region

  • During the plenary, the delegate of Monaco spoke of the importance of making health systems stronger and more resilient.
  • A delegate of Finland underlined the economic impact of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic and the importance of strengthening health systems everywhere. He commented that not only health equity but also safe water and clean air are important; working across sectors to address all health determinants is therefore vital.
  • Continuing the discussion on the response to the EVD crisis, a delegate of Belgium outlined the various ways in which the country has contributed in West Africa, by providing a mobile clinic, a financial commitment and maintaining a commercial airline route to the affected countries. Referring to the post-2015 sustainable development goals, he emphasized that targets can be inclusive and sustainable only if the health systems of all countries are strengthened. He also called for a greater focus on adolescent health in general and reproductive and sexual health in particular.
  • A delegate of Malta drew attention to the humanitarian crisis of migrants in the Mediterranean. He also called on countries to take stock of their achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and requested that the future goals for sustainable development be rights-based and people-centred, guided by the principles of equity and universal health coverage.
  • A delegate of Sweden, referring to the WHO reform process, said that the aims of the reform were to make the Organization more focused, clear and efficient. He recognized that funding mechanisms should be changed and stated that "any success or failure of WHO is a shared responsibility of every Member State, as well as the Organization". 
  • Resilient health systems were also referred to by the delegate of Luxembourg, who reaffirmed his country's commitment to promoting universal health coverage within the post-2015 development agenda. Luxembourg is organizing a conference on the lessons learnt from the EVD crisis as part of its programme for the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July to December 2015.
  • A delegate of Portugal described the country's experience in health system reform for improving access to health care and making medicines cheaper. In order to "do more for less", the system includes greater focus on prevention, adopting e-health and introducing a web-based platform for information-sharing.
  • A delegate of Poland raised the issue of the challenges of developing new medicines and the importance of ensuring equitable provision of drugs for all countries.
  • A delegate of Slovakia said that there must be open discussion on the reform process, including the restructuring of the budget. He said that the global vaccination action plan and discussions on antimicrobial resistance were key issues on the agenda.
  • The Spanish delegate said that Spain has a comprehensive health care system, but risk factors including poor eating habits, obesity and tobacco and alcohol use are affecting people's health. Strong surveillance systems were required, including an early warning system to identify health risks at national level that works closely with International Health Regulations (2005) focal points and European Union information systems.
  • Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, met with Mr Mehmet Müezzinoğlu, Minister of Health of Turkey. She thanked the Minister for the Ministry's collaboration on health issues for refugees from the Syrian Arab republic in Turkey and in the work of the WHO Office in Gaziantep. Progress on a country cooperation strategy between WHO and Turkey was also discussed.
  • The focus of a bilateral meeting between Zsuzsanna Jakab and Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, Minister of Health of Lithuania, was planning for the next session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, to be held in Lithuania in September. Dr Jakab thanked the Minister for her participation in the mid-term review meeting of the environment and health process, held in Haifa, Israel, in April. 
  • The Regional Director also held a bilateral meeting with the Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport of The Netherlands, Dr Angelique Berg. Discussions focused on how WHO responds to emergencies and on collaboration with WHO, including secondment agreements for work on antimicrobial resistance and the joint information system supported by The Netherlands.
  • Dr Jakab also met with a delegation from Monaco and thanked them for their inputs in the plenary session to discuss processes and intersectoral collaboration for the "small countries initiative", especially regarding the amount of data expected to be collected and how best practices could be shared. Dr Jakab explained the importance of combining health education and social policies and expressed appreciation for offer of Monaco to host the next meeting on health policy and development.
  • In the discussion of the draft global strategy on malaria, Member States in the WHO European Region proposed an increase in WHO's engagement, with more resources and support, to sustain the progress made in malaria control. Their recommendations included stronger surveillance, more investment in research and development, multisectoral collaboration and cross-border partnerships. They made similar recommendations during the discussion on prevention and control of dengue.
  • A delegate of the Czech Republic said that ageing must be taken into account in building resilient health systems and emphasized that good governance for health is vital.
  • A delegate of Turkmenistan underlined the country's commitment to tobacco control and implementation of Health 2020 through a whole-of-government approach and intersectoral action. He extended an invitation to other countries to attend a conference on the whole-of-government approach to health organized by the Government of Turkmenistan to be held in July.
  • A delegate of Israel emphasized the importance of food safety in preventing the spread of disease and mentioned the recent environment and health meeting held in Haifa; he pledged full support for the Director-General.
  • A delegate of Belgium described recent developments in the country's health system, which included new legislation, modern equipment and ensuring equal access to services for people in rural and urban areas. 
  • A delegate of Lithuania emphasized the need for training and capacity-building in all sectors in order to implement Member States' commitments to the International Health Regulations (2005) and the global noncommunicable disease action plan.
  • Several European Member States took part in an evening session on progress in the decade of action for road safety. A delegate of the Russian Federation reported that road traffic fatalities had fallen in the country by 22% in the past decade due to a series of measures, including better first aid, training of drivers of public transport vehicles, a "slow down" campaign to protect pedestrians and photo and video surveillance to detect and control dangerous behaviour.