New hands-on approach to policy-making: Ukraine develops national plan at WHO/Europe

Representatives from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health spent four productive days in early August at WHO/Europe working with noncommunicable diseases (NCD) programme managers to develop a draft national NCD action plan.

This new approach to developing national strategies involves first-hand input from WHO technical staff on specific areas. The advantage is that technical staff and country representatives can discuss current legislation, and experience from other countries and sectors, and thereby contribute to a streamlined policy-making approach with practical recommendations from the start.

“This way of working, bringing different areas of expertise together at the beginning of the legislative process has speeded up the drafting of our new NCD action plan. We would like to share the experience with other parts of the Ministry of Health, and have high hopes that the plan will be adopted by Parliament in October,” said Oleg Shvets, chief dietitian at the Ministry of Health, Ukraine.

The Ukrainian representatives developed the action plan to include “best buy” interventions for NCDs. These are policy interventions that are relatively easy to implement in terms of time and resources, but have a significant proven positive effect on the risk factors for NCDs. Specifically, they include fiscal and marketing policies to reduce the consumption of alcohol and tobacco, salt reduction policies, and the removal of trans fats from food.

The Ministry officials then met with managers of WHO programmes individually and as a group. Technical staff provided input to the plan as it developed, and the meetings with programmes also facilitated cross-divisional work at WHO/Europe, as well as strengthening collaboration among the stakeholders. 

Identifying priority interventions

The marketing of processed food, “hidden” sugars, salt and excessive saturated fats under current legislation in Ukraine were the focus of discussions, supported by the sharing of experiences from other countries. The priority interventions for Ukraine are in three key areas:

  • fiscal and marketing policies to address alcohol and tobacco consumption;
  • the elimination of trans fats in food (and their replacement with polyunsaturated fats);
  • salt reduction.

In addition, other activities that address these priority areas were included in the plan, such as public campaigns and the training of health professionals.
The draft plan will be completed with further input from relevant WHO programmes as well as Ukrainian experts over the next two weeks. It will then be presented to the Ministry of Health and posted on the Ministry web site for public consultation. A roundtable to obtain additional input from experts and other stakeholders is planned for September, and in October the plan is to be presented for adoption in Parliament, along with a national Health 2020 plan, based on the new European health policy.