Evidence-informed development of the Albanian National Health Strategy (ANHS) from a Health 2020 perspective

WHO

The Albanian Ministry of Health requested WHO's support in developing ANHS 2016–2020 from a Health 2020 perspective. The start of a broad-based consultation process was marked with an event that took place in Tirana, Albania, on 16 July 2015. The event brought together high-level representatives of the Albanian Government, line ministries and health agencies, as well as representatives of international partners, health professionals' organizations, patients' rights organizations and representatives of civil society.

Importance of harmonizing objectives

In their opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Health, Ms Milva Ekonomi, and the Head of the WHO Country Office in Albania, Dr Ledia Lazëri, highlighted the importance of the new ANHS in harmonizing the Government's strategic objectives for the health sector with the core principles of the European health policy framework, Health 2020, as well as with objectives stemming from the European Union (EU) integration requirements for Albania as an EU candidate country. The Ministry of Health has committed to drafting the new ANHS in line with the Health 2020 strategic objectives of improving health for all and reducing health inequalities, and improving leadership and participatory governance for health, ultimately achieving the objective of universal health coverage.

Importance of intersectoral collaboration

The opening panel was composed of representatives – at deputy-minister level – of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Environment and the High State Inspectorate who all stated the importance of intersectoral collaboration. The Deputy Minister of Education and Sports highlighted the association between an active life-style with reduced risk for a series of diseases ranging from cardiovascular diseases to cancers; the Deputy Minister of Environment presented briefly the national framework environment strategy in Albania outlining the cross sections between health and environment. The State Inspector General focused on how the State Inspectorate can support public health programmes from a health protection angle.

Then, Health 2020 was introduced as a demonstration of the whole-of-government approach. Dr Richard Alderslade, a WHO Senior Expert on Health Policy, emphasized the intersectoral nature of Health 2020 and its implications for ANHS. As Albania has several vertical health programme strategies already approved, ANHS is seen as a framework strategic document that will set the vision, objectives, indicators, targets and the means necessary to advance public health towards 2020 in Albania. The knowledge base already amassed for Health 2020 will be useful for drafting ANHS.

Representatives of academic bodies, professional orders and civil society also stated their interest and role in advancing the national health agenda with special focus on the need to sustain a motivated health workforce for quality health care delivery.

Representatives of the international community, including both United Nations (UN) agencies and bilateral donors, brought examples of their work in health, stemming from their mandate and long experience, and possible topics for cooperation with other partners. The commonality of all the work done by the UN is, again, the intersectorality and coordination of all of government and all of society on behalf of health.

A special intervention was made by the representative of the Department of Programming of Foreign Financial Aid of the Council of Ministers who, in addition to expressing support for the Ministry of Health and partners in drafting ANHS, brought to attention the linkages with the National Strategy for Development and Integration, the new guidelines for cooperation with partners and civil society, and the recently developed template of strategic documents.

Use of broad-based consultation

The event closed with the introduction of the roadmap for ANHS development, as well as of the online platform for consultations as a novel idea for transparent, comprehensive and broad-based consultation, inspired by the Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet), a WHO initiative that promotes the systematic use of health research evidence in policy-making.

Next steps include the finalization of the online platform and the upload of the strategy outline that will be a harmonized frame following Health 2020 and the government produced standardized template for strategic documents.