Environment and Health Task Force meeting kicks off national planning in 7 key areas

WHO

Last year, countries in the WHO European Region adopted the Ostrava Declaration, which commits them to make visible, measurable and equitable progress on environment and health in 7 priority areas. In order to do this, Member States agreed to develop national portfolios of actions on environment and health by the end of 2018, coordinated by country-nominated focal points.

This network of environment and health focal points met in Bonn, Germany, on 20–21 March 2018 for the eighth meeting of the European Environment and Health Task Force (EHTF) to kick off and collaborate on developing these portfolios. Participants shared resources and discussed the technical support available, and also showcased examples of how countries have addressed the priority areas through multisectoral collaboration.

“The Ostrava Declaration sets out where and how we must take action on environmental risks to protect the health of our citizens today and in the future,” said Mr Ivan Karic, State Secretary from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Serbia, at the meeting. “Now we are taking the next step, developing and tailoring actions to meet our specific national needs. To make the right policy decisions, we rely strongly on WHO’s technical expertise and guidance from its European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn.”

During the meeting, the EHTF also elected its Bureau. The new Chairperson for the coming year, Dr Nune Bakunts of Armenia, took over from Mr Robert Thaler of Austria. Other members of the new Bureau represent the health and environment ministries of Austria, Israel, the Netherlands, the Republic of Moldova, Serbia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The Bureau guides the preparation of the EHTF meetings and supports the WHO Secretariat in the intersessional period. The next EHTF meeting is scheduled for 2019.

Priority action areas of the Ostrava Declaration

The Ostrava Declaration identifies the following 7 areas for action:

  • improving indoor and outdoor air quality for all;
  • ensuring universal, equitable and sustainable access to safe drinking-water, sanitation and hygiene for all and in all settings;
  • minimizing the adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment;
  • preventing and eliminating the adverse environmental and health effects, costs and inequalities related to waste management and contaminated sites;
  • strengthening adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change-related health risks and supporting measures to mitigate climate change and achieve health co-benefits in line with the Paris Agreement;
  • supporting the efforts of European cities and regions to become healthier, more inclusive, safer, resilient and sustainable; and
  • building the environmental sustainability of health systems and reducing their environmental impact.

WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany

Through the European Centre for Environment and Health, WHO/Europe provides Member States with expertise on the most up-to-date evidence on the nature and magnitude of existing and emerging environmental health risks, and assists them in identifying and implementing policies to address these risks.