Meeting report. Fourth preparatory meeting on “The Health Systems Charter” for the WHO

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The fourth and final preparatory meeting for the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Health Systems was held at the National Social Security Office in Brussels on 6 June 2008, hosted by the Belgian Government and attended by representatives of 42 of the 53 Member States of WHO in the European Region and of partner organizations, as well as European experts in the field of health systems.

The preparatory meeting was preceded by a short meeting of the Charter Drafting Group for the Conference, at which it reviewed comments submitted by representatives of Estonia, Finland, Norway and the European Investment Bank since the previous meeting of the Group, held in Moscow on 12–13 May 2008.

Drafting Group members agreed that most of those comments were aimed at rearrangement or “fine-tuning” of the text. Outstanding or additional questions concerned the legal implications of the Charter (notably related to the “commitments” being made by partner organizations and the Member States) and the need to make reference to health research, development assistance to countries within and outside the WHO European Region, and gender equity. Those issues were subsequently taken up in more detail at the preparatory meeting.

The preparatory meeting itself was opened by Dr Johan de Cock, Administrator-General, Social Health Care Department, National Institute for Health and Invalidity Insurance, who welcomed participants on behalf of the Belgian government and explained that the National Social Security Office had been chosen as the venue of the meeting in part because social security was a vital framework for statutory health insurance. He was pleased to see the outcome-oriented approach evident in the draft Charter and the importance it attached to health system performance, quality of care, equitable access to primary care and increased value for money: the aim was to ensure that health systems were affordable today and sustainable tomorrow.