New resolution adopted on environment and health for Europe

A new health and environment vision for Europe was endorsed by the sixtieth session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, gathering on 13–16 September 2010 in Moscow, Russian Federation.

Representatives of 53 European health ministries translated into action the commitments adopted at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Parma, Italy, which have a high degree of focus on achieving the first ever five time-bound targets in environmental health.

They also raised the profile of the European environment and health process by electing four health ministers to steer the regional process along with four environment ministers through a newly established European Environment and Health Ministerial Board (EHMB).

The four Ministers of Health elected to be part of the Board are those from France, Malta, Serbia and Slovenia. The four environment ministers will be elected at the annual meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)).

The legacy from Parma

The Parma Conference, held in March 2010, adopted a Declaration and Commitment to Act and devised a new institutional framework for the European environment and health process. The five Parma time-bound vows State that all European children will enjoy:

  • by 2020, safe water and sanitation in homes, child care centres, kindergartens, schools, health care institutions and public recreational water settings;
  • by 2020, healthy and safe environments and settings of daily life to walk and cycle and undertake physical activity;
  • by 2015, indoor environments free of tobacco smoke in child care facilities, kindergartens, schools and public recreational settings;
  • by 2015, environments free of toxic chemicals; and
  • by 2015, reduced identified health risks from carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants, including radon, ultraviolet radiation, asbestos and endocrine disruptors.

The Parma Declaration frames these commitments in a broader picture, recognizing that growing inequalities, climate change and the financial crisis may exacerbate existing environmental risks to health, and stressing that preventing environment-related diseases and injuries is a multisectoral and multi-level responsibility.

While the health sector is best placed to act as advocate with other sectors where reducing environmental risks can lead to co-benefits for health, ensuring “health in all policies” requires a shift of emphasis in the priorities of national action.

The Resolution affirms a strong, sustained political commitment of Member States at the highest political level necessary to achieve the Parma objectives.