Day 3 of high-level meeting Health Systems Respond to NCDs: opportunities and challenges for accelerated response


The final day of the regional meeting in Sitges, Spain, opened with an interactive panel session on the opportunities and challenges of an accelerated health systems response to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and of leapfrogging.

Seven topics emerged as the connecting themes for leapfrogging: taking a multidisciplinary approach; ensuring equity-oriented governance; creating networks; delivering multimorbidity care; rethinking roles and competencies of the health workforce; ensuring adequate financing; and making evidence-based policies for improved access to quality medicines.

The keynote presentation that followed made the case that leapfrogging for large-scale health system transformation requires new disruptive technologies, new operating models and new behaviour change initiatives.

Polling throughout the morning session helped identify the 3 leapfrogging opportunities that participants found most inspirational for their country. It also revealed the 3 most difficult challenges to overcome, the engines of transformation with the highest potential nationally, and the engines that can be implemented at this time.

High-level satellite event in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has shown the world that leapfrogging is possible, and 10 years ago the country could demonstrate achievements. However, NCD outcomes are not what they could be.

In a live session web-streamed from Kyrgyzstan, the Deputy Minister of Health shared the outcomes of 2 days of discussions at a satellite session organized in Bishkek. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of stratifying the risk of NCDs among the population through electronic records, strengthening human resources to better carry out health assignments, and enhancing cross-sectoral collaboration to improve health management and planning.

The satellite event, convened by WHO, assembled more than 60 health representatives and development partners, including Ministry of Health and Government representatives, parliamentarians, and health specialists from across the regions of the country. Together they debated and analysed their experiences of strengthening health systems for better NCD outcomes.

From Europe to the world

Panellists and speakers from the WHO regional offices for Africa, the Americas and the Western Pacific; from the WHO Country Office in Sri Lanka; and from the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Population Fund shared their experiences in health systems strengthening for better NCD outcomes, and considered how these can inform and inspire global action.

A panellist from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation spoke from the donor’s perspective, stating that development aid by itself is insufficient and that taking a holistic and long-term approach and setting priorities according to need and burden of disease are essential. This involves addressing NCDs throughout the life-course, introducing sustainable financing schemes and taking a people-centred approach to primary care.

In her closing remarks, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab reiterated the need for a comprehensive and aligned health systems response to NCDs. She commented that the meeting helped unpack inspiring opportunities to implement such a response.

“We need to send a positive message that success is possible, and that by leapfrogging we can move directly to implementing today’s good practices and make rapid progress to save people from dying far too early,” she added.

The outcome document from the event was adopted by acclamation. Its key messages will be presented at the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, and will feed into the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2018.