Obesity: priority for Malta and WHO/Europe’s joint work


Christopher Fearne, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Malta, met Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe on 26 August 2014.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Christopher Fearne, Parliamentary Secretary for Health of Malta, signed an agreement on 26 August, establishing priorities for collaboration for 2014–2015.

WHO/Europe and the Ministry for Energy and Health of Malta will work together:

  • to reduce risk factors for health related to nutrition;
  • to increase intersectoral policy coordination to address the social determinants of health; and
  • to ensure that policies, financing and human resources are in place to increase access to integrated people-centred health services.

New national health strategy for Malta

During his official visit to WHO/Europe on 26 August 2014, the Parliamentary Secretary explained that the Ministry will launch a new national health strategy in September, updating that from 2000. The Regional Director was pleased that the strategy addresses health governance and disease prevention, and approaches health throughout the life-course, in line with the European health policy framework, Health 2020.

Obesity is a major health concern in Malta, where rates among children are among the highest in the WHO European Region. Low rates of breastfeeding and high intake of soft drinks have been identified as contributing factors. The Ministry is developing a policy on food and nutrition, and a strategy on diabetes, through a consultative process.

Other issues discussed included the challenge for small countries of providing a full range of state-of-the-art health services, the Region’s preparations and support for the response to the Ebola emergency, responses to the health needs of migrants and the need to address health inequities in order to tackle both communicable and noncommunicable diseases.

High-level experts from Malta – Ray Busuttil, Chair of the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee and Executive President of the forthcoming 64th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, and Karen Vincenti, public health consultant – and staff of WHO/Europe also took part in the discussions.