Policy dialogue on public health reform in Greece: public health in the 21st century

28–29 March 2017, Athens, Greece

The Greek Ministry of Health has embarked upon a collaborative health system reform programme. As part of the Government's commitment to universal health coverage, the reform programme aims to transform public health services to enable the health system to meet the needs of the Greek population, particularly the poor and the most vulnerable.

The upcoming policy dialogue intends to create support for the public health reforms and to identify practical ways to implement them by bringing together representatives of key stakeholders in the health sector.

Years of across-the-board budget cuts have drastically reduced the funds available for public health services in Greece. Simultaneously, the country has experienced rising poverty rates and an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants in need of culturally sensitive, long- and short-term public health services.


In order for the reform progamme to create a modern, effective and people-centred national health service, it is essential that the existing public health services – which for historical reasons are currently focused on the control and prevention of communicable diseases – are transformed to focus on reducing the incidence and prevalence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Doing so will require new approaches that combine population-based interventions with individual health promotion and disease prevention services, as well as the development of an NCD monitoring and surveillance system.

Key objectives

The reforms on the path towards universal health coverage will take tie and will require committed, capable people from across the health sector, including but not limited to policy-makers, payers, public health professionals, health services providers and health care managers, as well as regional authorities, academia, patient groups and civil society. This policy dialogue will bring these groups together, creating a platform and an opportunity for debate and discussion in order to achieve consensus on the structure and content of a new public health strategy. At the same time, it will serve to increase the transparency of the public health reforms and the Government’s objectives, goals and strategies.

The specific objectives of the policy dialogue are to:

  • create a common understanding of the urgent need to shift from an emphasis on curative care to health promotion and disease prevention;
  • establish a common understanding of the need for whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, high-level leadership and effective intersectoral mechanisms to ensure they achieve the desired outcomes;
  • identify the structural challenges facing current public health services and discuss the reforms needed to address them, including those related to migrants and refugees;
  • discuss and agree on emerging principles and themes for a national public health strategic plan for 2017–2021, and public health priorities to be addressed;
  • clarify the public health challenges related to migrants and refugees and introduce a framework for addressing them that is aligned with the Strategy and action plan for refugee and migrant health in the WHO European Region;
  • create a platform for discussing challenges and sharing lessons from within Greece and across Europe; and
  • reinvigorate a sense of share identity and purpose within the public health community.

The Greek Prime Minister, the WHO Regional Director for Europe and the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety are expected to open the meeting.