WHO meeting of national focal points for family and community health - Progress regarding MDGs 3, 4 and 5. Draft conclusions

27-30 September 2010, Durres, Albania 

Government officials, UN agencies and other partners from more than 25 countries met in Durres, Albania last week to take stock of the progress in achieving MDGs 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women), 4 (Reduce child mortality) and 5 (To improve maternal health) in the WHO European Region.

Aims of the meeting

The meeting aimed to achieve four main objectives:

  • to present an overview of countries’ progress in achieving MDGs 3, 4 and 5;
  • to identify factors and health system actions that contribute to, or obstruct,  the achievement of  MDGs 3, 4 and 5;
  • to identify actions - by the health and other sectors - to exploit best synergies between MDGs 3, 4 and 5, as well as other health-related MDGs;
  • to agree on specific steps to be taken at regional, sub-regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress towards MDGs 3, 4 and 5.

Draft conclusions

The full report of the meeting is in progress but some of the draft conclusions can be found below:

  • Advocates for health must persuade ministers (not just health ministers) in their countries that health is not a deficit model, but is an asset model that contributes enormously to the economic and social prosperity of countries.
  • To improve the health of vulnerable groups, the interaction between gender and other social determinants of health, such as income, education, ethnicity and migration status, needs to be well integrated in policies and interventions.
  • Under-five mortality reductions are on target in most countries, but neonatal mortality remains a challenge – this has direct links to maternal health.
  • Maternal mortality is decreasing throughout the region: actions to ensure that appropriate interventions reach vulnerable women should be accelerated.
  • It is important to ensure free reproductive, maternal and child health services at point of access.
  • Countries and international partners should give urgent, focused attention to achieving “universal access to reproductive health” (MDG 5b).
  • There is an essential requirement to invest in agreed data collection and monitoring systems, with mechanisms being put in place to ensure their use.
  • Political commitment to achieving MDGs is high within countries, although that does not guarantee action.
  • The specific contribution of civil society in addressing inequities and reaching vulnerable groups is recognized – this needs to be supported by governments.
  • Progress has been made in establishing quality assurance mechanisms, but much still needs to be done on this issue across the region.
  • Urgent action is needed to develop comprehensive human resource plans that will forecast future workforce needs.
  • A broad range of tools on improving maternal and child health is available throughout the region − urgent action is required to scale-up and accelerate their application.
  • Progress has been made in increasing the quality of service delivery, but more action is required to promote use of services, particularly by vulnerable groups.
  • Issues of equity are paramount: even countries that are doing very well face equity issues with particular groups.
  • Education of girls and women is one of the key determinants of maternal and child health.
  • Education and access to economic resources are crucial in allowing women to make informed choices regarding their health and the health of their children.
  • Existing negative gender norms and values that impact on health, such as gender-based violence and early marriage, need to be challenged by the health sector.
  • Economic-security issues for women are linked to education, employment and social protection.
  • Maternal and child health services should be equitably represented in decision-making processes on how health budgets are set and priorities identified.
  • Multisectoral action is required to tackle inequities. The meeting encourages ministries of health to support and facilitate multisectoral collaboration as a means to improving health and well-being.
  • Individuals and communities should be involved in the planning, delivery and monitoring of services.