Experts draw up policy approaches to strengthening health systems to tackle NCDs


Experts from 7 Member States and WHO/Europe met in Madrid, Spain, on 9–10 November to hammer out key messages and policy approaches to strengthening health systems for improved prevention, treatment and care of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

High-level officials Dr José Javier Castrodeza Sanz, Secretary General for Health and Consumer Affairs at the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality; Dr Recep Akdağ, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey; and Dr Alexey Tsoy, Deputy Minister of Health of Kazakhstan, participated in the event.

A combination of key messages and case studies illustrating the approaches will be included in a publication that will be launched on 16–18 April 2018 at the high-level meeting Health Systems Respond to NCDs in Sitges, Spain. All examples in the publication will feature country-level approaches.

In his opening statement at the meeting, Dr Hans Kluge, Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe, emphasized the need to transform health systems to better respond to NCDs, and described the major barriers hindering the process.

Dr Gauden Galea, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course at WHO/Europe, stressed the urgency of a health systems response to the growing burden of NCDs. He highlighted the possibility of leapfrogging – countries making rapid advances based on learning from other countries’ earlier experiences.

Disruptive innovations and the role of patients

Experts debated how disruptive innovations can bring about fundamental shifts in health service delivery. They discussed how technological advances can contribute to these shifts, as well as issues related to diversity, the social gradient, the increasing role of patients in their own care and the accelerated availability of knowledge.

Key themes emerged during the discussions, including the need for alignment and putting people at the centre of coordinated and continuous services. This requires work in 4 key policy areas: a health workforce fit for purpose, aligned health financing, health information solutions and multipronged medicines policies. All of these areas must be supported by responsive governance structures.

Living up to the global mandate

Health is clearly rising to the top of the global development agenda, and health systems are a uniting factor in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The publication to be presented in April 2018 will contribute to this global agenda, offering concrete actions that countries can adapt and implement to strengthen their health service delivery and meet the challenge posed by NCDs.

The event in Madrid was organized in collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.