Environmentally sustainable health systems (ESHS) meeting

11–12 November 2015, Bonn, Germany

This meeting takes a forward-looking approach to some of the most impactful issues affecting both health and the environment today. It focuses on identifying and discussing a strategic approach to fostering sustainability in health systems from an environmental perspective.

The meeting is organized jointly by 2 of WHO/Europe's divisions: the Division of Communicable Diseases, Health Security and Environment; and the Division of Health Systems and Public Health. It will bring together representatives of Member States, technical experts and partners.

Prior to the meeting, participants will receive:

  • a draft of the working document "Environmental sustainability and health systems – defining approaches"; and
  • a policy summary exploring evidence on the impacts of health systems on the environment, and the benefits to health systems of addressing environmental sustainability.

The scope of the meeting will be to discuss the main elements of the strategic approach towards ESHS, namely:

  • the environmental pressures and impacts of health systems in the WHO European Region;
  • the benefits for patients, health systems and the environment of considering and accounting for environmental sustainability;
  • a vision for ESHS;
  • key actions to foster environmental sustainability in health systems;
  • the technical assistance needed by Member States striving to enhance environmental sustainability in their health system; and
  • the role of different partners in delivering this technical assistance.

Meeting outcomes

The results of the discussions will contribute further to the development of a strategic approach towards the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health and the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. The discussions and agreements of the meeting will be summarized in a separate report and presented at the next European Environment and Health Ministerial Board meeting, with a proposal to include the topic at the Ministerial Conference. The report will also be circulated among relevant health systems policy networks.

This meeting follows a technical workshop also held in Bonn, Germany, on 27–28 August 2013, which focused on promoting technical discussions and sharing lessons learnt.


Health systems are fundamental for improving, maintaining and restoring health. Good health contributes to economic growth and, in turn, societal well-being. However, secular trends of rising urbanization and population ageing, as well as rising health care costs and the financial crisis have raised concerns about the sustainability of health systems in Europe. While such debate usually focuses on the availability of financial resources, the financial sustainability of health systems is – as in other complex human systems – inextricably linked to their social and environmental sustainability.

Creating ESHS can yield benefits for patients, the health care workforce, health services, financing and the environment. ESHS also support many elements of Health 2020 delivery: in particular through the reduction of pollution and waste, a more efficient use of resources and the promotion of health promoting environmental practices. Moreover, a number of win-win situations can be achieved through partnerships between the health and environment sectors.

Health 2020 makes explicit the commitment of countries in the Region to:

  • eliminate the most significant environmental threats to human health
  • create supportive environments and resilient communities
  • tackle Europe's major disease burden of noncommunicable and communicable diseases
  • promote services locally for environment and health
  • encourage the health sector to act in a more environmentally responsible manner.

WHO activities on environmental sustainability aim to contribute to the achievement of the post 2015 development agenda.