President of Romania underscores importance of taking action on environment and health during high-level policy dialogue

©Romanian Presidential Administration

During a recent workshop and policy dialogue in Romania, high-level participants emphasized the growing importance of health in all policies and stressed the urgency of taking action in many areas of environment and health for the benefit of present and future generations. The event, which was organized by the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn and the WHO Country Office in Bucharest, in collaboration with the Romanian Presidential Administration, focused on Integrated Environment and Health Impact Assessment (IEHIA). It aimed to discuss the institutional arrangements for addressing environmental health determinants and for supporting intersectoral work, more generally. The President of Romania, the ministers of health and education, and several high-level government officials from Romania and the Republic of Moldova, as well as representatives from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, participated in the event, held in the Cotroceni Presidential Palace in Bucharest on 20-22 July 2016.

The President of Romania, His Excellency Mr Klaus Werner Iohannis, addressed participants of the policy dialogue, stating, “If one wants a healthy population, a safer public health sector and a prosperous society, the answer stands in health in all policies. This indicates a need for an integrated and multidisciplinary approach that includes not only the health of an individual and the population, but also the health of the ecosystem.” Vlad Vasile Voiculescu, Minister of Health, and Mircea Dumitru, Minister of Education and Research, also stressed country’s commitment to intersectoral work and a multidisciplinary, holistic approach.

Goals and outcomes

The policy dialogue had four main goals:

  • To summarize the current state of affairs of environment and health in Europe, with a view towards the 2017 Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health;
  • To review the current environment and health challenges and priorities in Romania;
  • To discuss institutional and legal provisions, mechanisms, needs and opportunities for intersectoral collaboration in the field; and
  • To describe how integrated environmental health impact assessment can support further progress with implementation of Health 2020 and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The starting point for the discussions was the recently adopted National Health Strategy 2014–2020 and its provisions for intersectoral work, which is very much in line with Health 2020. Participants from all sectors also confirmed their strong interest in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development but expressed a desire for additional tools and resources for implementation.

The technical workshop – attended by 40 participants, including top scientists in the environment and health field from the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – covered topics such as methods, strategies and tools for carrying out comprehensive, real-life assessments of the health impacts of environmental risk factors (e.g., airborne particulates) and complex determinants (e.g., power generation).

Building technical capacity

Integrated Environment and Health Impact Assessment is a multidisciplinary approach and an instrument that draws from disciplines such as public health, health promotion, the social and political sciences, environmental science, urban planning, epidemiology and statistics. Its remit is broad in scope: to protect and promote population health by analysing and estimating potential health impacts of projects, programmes and policies, and to inform decision-makers about those potential impacts. During the workshop, Marco Martuzzi of WHO/Europe described the integrated environment and health impact assessment as “a precious resource for evidence-informed policy development and for further strengthening action in virtually all sectors.”

The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to work on IEHIA case studies, increasing their confidence in putting the assessment into practice and helping to further promote this approach as a valuable tool in their work.