Europe commits to leaving no child behind

Press contacts

Ms Maria Brink Schleimann
Communications Consultant
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 4533 7098

Ms Liuba Negru (French speaking)
External Relations Officer
Country Support and Communications
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 45 33 67 89
Mobile: +45 20 45 92 74
Email: negrul@

Copenhagen and Paris, 7 December 2016

The health status of people in the WHO European Region is advancing, but not all children have the same chances of healthy growth and millions are being left behind. In 20 out of 28 European Union countries, children are at higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than adults.

For the first time, representatives of the health, social and education sectors from over 40 European countries, including experts from international organizations and civil society, will come together in Paris, France, on 7–8 December 2016 at the WHO high-level conference Working together for better health and well-being. They will take concrete steps to address the social determinants of health and strengthen social protection as a means to give all children the best start in life.

“If we are truly committed to improving the health of our children and future generations we must act together and act now,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “The health sector alone cannot address the full range of policies that shape the conditions in which our children grow and that in turn influence their chances of a healthy and happy life. We now have a unique opportunity to bridge the silos that separate us and ensure that each and every child is not falling through the gaps.”

Investing in early childhood development pays off

Providing universal access to quality and affordable education in early years is one of the most powerful ways to ensure fair health, social and economic opportunities – even before a child reaches school age. Data show that:

  • a 2% increase in current spending on early childhood development could pay back up to 9 times that value in economic and social benefits; and
  • not investing in early childhood development for those at the highest risk of poverty can lead to a 26% drop in productivity.

The recently released Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey found that young people’s health and well-being are clearly influenced by gender and socioeconomic determinants. Adolescents from poorer families tend to have poorer health, higher levels of obesity and lower life satisfaction. They also have less support from friends and families compared to their wealthier peers.

Examples of synergy for better health outcomes

Good initiatives that create synergies among sectors, such as those listed below, exist in many countries.

  • France – The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Ministry of National Education signed a framework convention in November 2016. Among its objectives, the “health pathway” programme advocates for health education, disease prevention and health protection within the school curriculum to promote well-being at school; fights against social inequalities in health; and creates supportive environments.
  • Germany – The “leave no child behind” programme works to ensure that children are not falling through the gaps – from pregnancy to working life. It combines services throughout the life-course and pays specific attention to transitional periods, for example, from nursery to school.
  • Iceland – Recognizing that the prevention of child maltreatment is a multisectoral effort, the Barnahus interdisciplinary centre investigates child abuse and supports children. Their aim is to both increase prevention and improve recovery from trauma.
  • Slovenia – The national programme on prevention of family violence focuses on joint education programmes between the health, social and educational sectors for at-risk families, and for health and social workers dealing with family violence.

A compendium of case studies from across the Region will be shared at the conference to allow countries to learn from one another.

Building on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The conference builds on the foundations laid by the European policy for health and well-being Health 2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s Sustainable Development Goals, and will serve as a platform to share effective approaches and experiences. It will explore innovative ways and policies to ensure:

  • universal social protection for better health and well-being;
  • the promotion of health and well-being in schools and preschools; and
  • good governance for the health and well-being of all children and adolescents.

At the end of the conference, delegates are expected to make recommendations for concrete actions across sectors to improve the health and well-being of all children in the Region.