Marking World Health Day 2017 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

World Health Day 2017 was celebrated with a series of events in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, organized by the WHO Country Office in cooperation with national institutions, particularly the Ministry of Health, the Institute for Occupational Health, the National Institute for Public Health and the Macedonian Medical Society.

The Institute for Public Health organized a press conference on 5 April to promote the World Health Day theme for 2017, ‘Depression: Let’s talk’. During the press conference, the WHO National Counterpart for Mental Health, Antoni Novotni, University Clinic of Psychiatry, Skopje, presented an overview of the situation with depression in the country and recommendations on how to prevent it.

Health professionals met on 6 April 2017 at the Institute for Occupational Health (WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health) to discuss the World Health Day 2017 theme. Participants included public health and noncommunicable disease experts, representatives of the occupational health sector, personnel from the Ministry of Health and other institutions from the health and social sectors. Discussion focused on key issues related to depression and its treatment and the challenges within the country, including the health and safety of workers, the causes of depression and the importance of early recognition.

The need to increase awareness not only among employees but also among employers and health professionals about the effects of depression and the link with employees’ ability to work was highlighted. According to findings of the Institute for Occupational Health, the coverage of workers with preventive medical examinations is increasing and more attention is being paid to psychosocial hazards, alongside such classic hazards as chemicals, noise and vibration.

According to the Health Insurance Fund, antidepressants were the third most used group of medicines in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2016, with 3.37 million prescriptions.

At a national event organized by the Macedonian Doctor’s Association to mark World Health Day on 7 April 2017, the Minister of Health, Nikola Todorov, said that according to national records, 55 000 patients were referred to a higher level of care or were prescribed medicine for depression in 2016. That is about 2.75% of the total population, which is less than the average according to WHO, which ranges from 3.8% to 6.3%. He said that depression was still stigmatized in the country and that depression centres have the goal of overcoming this stigma and encouraging people to seek professional help. The Minister also highlighted that according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Occupational Health, about 70% of surveyed physicians (roughly 1200 individuals) said that they were not able to recognize the symptoms of depression.

World Health Day materials

More than 600 posters and handouts, press releases and briefings, produced for World Health Day 2017 were translated into the Macedonian language and distributed countrywide to national and local public health institutions, health centres and hospitals, as well as at local self-government offices. By courtesy of the WHO country offices in Tirana and Pristina, posters and brochures were also received and disseminated in the Albanian language. In addition, the materials were published on the country's National Health 2020 web platform.

Media coverage

All events organized by national health institutions, with support from the WHO Country Office, were well covered in the media – television, newspapers and internet portals.

The WHO Country Office will continue to spread the World Health Day 2017 message at various events organized throughout the year.