Scope and purpose

It has been recognized that most of the major public health challenges, including noncommunicable diseases and inequalities in health, cannot be addressed effectively without coordinated action in other sectors at the global, European, national and local levels and between these levels. Health actors therefore need to understand and connect with the perspectives, value systems and agendas of a wide range of national stakeholders and at times international actors. The strengthening of health systems should go hand in hand with systematic efforts to promote health in all policies.  Effective governance for health in the 21st century is also intricately linked with an active role for civil society, including nongovernmental organizations, empowered communities and a socially responsible private sector.

Ultimately, the pursuit of health and well-being is a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society imperative requiring effective approaches to governance for health and well-being.

One of the core aims of the new European policy for health – Health 2020 – is to promote and strengthen innovative ways of working across sector and agency boundaries for health and well-being. This also implies innovative ways of involving new stakeholders and actively exploring new means, creating new partnerships while enriching existing ones and adopting new ways of working. However, reaching out to other sectors has a political and technical context that needs to be well explored and understood.

  • What kinds of health threats cannot be tackled solely by health sector action?
  • What are the main challenges health ministers and ministries are facing in reaching out to other sectors?
  • What is the added value of intersectoral partnerships for health as shown by concrete experience? What are the opportunities and solutions of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to health? What are the capacity building implications for adopting such approaches?
  • What shared challenges must various actors resolve when planning and implementing action for health involving different sectors (such as issues of accountability, financing, ownership and leadership)?
  • How can heads of state and government and parliamentarians give health and well-being a higher place in their political agendas (especially at times of economic downturn and budget limitations)?
  • How can the gap between public health researchers and policy-makers be bridged?
  • How are emerging global issues taken into account at the European Region level when planning and implementing action for health?

These are some of the key questions that participants will debate.

The European Region has a strong legacy in strategies for health that were planned and implemented with the active involvement of various sectors as well as civil society. The experience gained by WHO in the collaboration with other sectors and levels of government through major initiatives – including Health for All, health in all policies, the Tallinn Charter: Health Systems for Health and Wealth, the European environment and health process and the Healthy Cities movement – will be reviewed and discussed.

The meeting will address issues related to how to connect with and engage key sectors and stakeholders; explore the political determinants of health; and address the necessary changes in attitudes, structures, processes and capacity-building to ensure that governance for health meets the complex challenges of multiple partnerships, shared goals and increased coordination, participation, transparency and accountability.

The meeting represents an important milestone in the process of shaping the new European policy for health – Health 2020 – to be approved by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September 2012.