Latvia’s stakeholders inspired by Health 2020

Ministry of Health, Latvia

Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of Latvia, speaking at the Conference on 20 March 2013

It is time to break the vicious circle, in which people are “sick because they are poor and poor because they are sick,” said Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of Latvia, in his opening address to the high-level, cross-sectoral Conference “Health for Growth”, held in Riga last week. The participants adopted a resolution calling for collaboration across development and health sectors to reduce health inequalities, as envisioned in Health 2020, the new European health policy.

The Prime Minister addressed more than 200 participants at the Conference, which was jointly organized by the Ministry of Health of Latvia, WHO/Europe and the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia. Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Dr Ingrida Circene, Minister of Health of Latvia; and Ms Ilze Vinkele, Minister of Welfare of Latvia, also addressed the participants, national policy-makers from various sectors.

Main challenge: insufficient health spending

The Minister of Health reminded the audience that “without health, development is impossible”. She explained that Latvia had achieved much despite the financial crisis, but insufficient health funding, accompanied by high out-of-pocket spending, remains the main challenge.

The Regional Director explained the goals and objectives of the new European policy framework – Health 2020 – and their relevance to all European countries. She praised the work of the Prime Minister’s cross-sectoral coordination centre and congratulated the country on the recent launch of its National Development Plan 2014–2020.

Latvia’s response to the financial crisis

Latvia is recovering from the financial crisis. In response to the crisis, the Government took a number of measures, including reducing hospital-sector expenditure, strengthening primary care, improving access to essential medicines, focusing on maternal and child health and introducing measures to protect the poor. The Regional Director acknowledged the progress Latvia had made in strengthening intersectoral collaboration and thanked the Ministry of Health for its leadership.

In addition, Mr Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, Minister of Health of Lithuania, described his country’s experience and progress in improving health governance and reducing health inequalities. Many speakers at the Conference suggested joint actions to implement the National Development Plan, promote health, strengthen public health and disease prevention, and reduce health inequalities.

A resolution adopted by the participants calls for a whole-of-government approach to improve the health of Latvia’s population and address health inequities. It emphasizes health as investment in economic growth and the necessity of investing in human resources in health.

Finally, the Regional Director and the Latvian Minister of Health met with Ms Solvita Aboltina, Speaker of the Parliament of Latvia, who confirmed that health issues are high on that body’s agenda. The Speaker said that the members of Parliament understood that all ministries had a role in improving health, and would support joint action.