The San Marino meeting – a big step for small countries


To help countries achieve health equity, WHO/Europe convened a kick-off meeting in July in San Marino with representatives from 8 small countries in the Region to discuss implementation of the Health 2020 vision. 

First high-level meeting of the small countries

Small countries, with populations of less than 1 million, are equipped to adapt quickly, and to set and implement policies effectively. Choosing the right policies has a great potential to achieve social and political cohesion. Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, pointed to intersectoral cooperation as a key advantage in small states, “which have a great potential to adapt 21st-century solutions towards health equity and serve as an example for other countries”.

Representatives from Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino, came together to discuss how to implement the recommendations from Health 2020 and its main studies. Italian members of the WHO Regions for Health Network were also invited to the conference.

The small size of these Member States poses both challenges and opportunities. Small countries exchanged information on best practices, common challenges and synergies between multisectoral approaches to health, community engagement and policies to improve the health and well-being of all citizens. Ms Jakab encouraged all countries to use a whole-of-government approach, especially in key areas that require a coherent interministerial response, such as the economics of prevention. Dr. Enrique Loyola of WHO/Europe stated major challenges as the collection and monitoring of health data, which are key first steps to inform evidence-based policy recommendations, and to further transform them into practice.

Working with countries towards health equity

The 53 Member States of the Region have a large and diverse population. This diversity also exists in terms of health inequalities. To achieve health equity, WHO/Europe works with countries in key areas such as the social determinants of health: the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age. Action across all government sectors is needed to address numerous factors affecting health and well-being on a daily basis. Not only do the health consequences of all policies need to be taken into account, but also different sectors need to collaborate and agree on a common agenda to help people lead healthier and happier lives.