Background

WHO

Conference venue - headquarters of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus

The WHO European Ministerial Conference brought together new evidence, from genetics to economics, on what governments can do to keep people healthy throughout the life course. The conference equipped policy-makers with policy resources to promote a healthy start to life and to target the needs of people at critical ages. The conference took place at the headquarters of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus.

The conference vision

This ministerial conference presented findings from a wide range of disciplines: genetics, medicine, public health and the environmental, economic and social sciences to illustrate how the life-course approach can maximize the health potential of the entire population. 

Three key themes ran through the conference: acting early, acting on time and acting together. Together, they form the life-course approach. If this approach is applied to public health in Europe, there is scope for vast improvement in the health of populations.

  • Pregnancy and birth should be a healthy and positive experience for all. The early years of life should give the best possible start for the mental and physical health of both mother and child in a healthy, supportive environment. 
  • Young people should be able to make choices that delay or prevent the onset of negative health behaviour. They should not be subjected to pressure that forces them to adopt risky sexual or consumer behaviour that is harmful to them for the rest of their lives and should be guided away from threats to their well-being, peace and security.
  • The vulnerable transition periods in life, when people are most open to change, could be used as entry points for many sectors to help people to cope, thrive and recover from the consequences of financial crises, unemployment, displacement and insecurity.

Main objectives 

  1. to review new evidence on the factors that improve or damage health throughout the life stages and across generations;
  2. to examine the policy implications of such evidence for the health sector and for the whole of government; and
  3. to adopt an action framework in the form of a conference outcome statement for use by countries that wish to apply the findings in public policy-making.

Participants

Health ministers, delegations from Member States in the WHO European Region and representatives of intergovernmental organizations, regional economic cooperation agencies and international nongovernmental organizations met in Minsk, Belarus, to agree on how the life-course approach can contribute to improving policy-making for health.

Key questions on the agenda

  • How are other countries using the life-course approach?
  • Are health policies tackling the highest priorities at the right time?
  • How can health be protected in crises that threaten entire populations at different stages of life?
  • How can immediate priorities for public policies be balanced with long-term public health needs and the growing expectations of citizens?