WHO governing body to make decisions affecting health systems

Copenhagen, Tbilisi, 16 September 2008

The need to strengthen health systems so that they can respond quickly and flexibly to the growing number of new challenges is on the agenda of WHO’s European governing body, the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. Attended by over 250 health officials from the WHO European Region, its annual session is taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia from 15 to 18 September.

The Regional Committee is set to consider several critical health issues and adopt important resolutions. Member States’ representatives are discussing the governance of health systems, health promotion, the social determinants of health, noncommunicable diseases, child and adolescent health, and climate change.

The Regional Committee gives priority to making health services accessible to all, particularly to those who cannot afford to pay for health care. Opening the session on 15 September, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Vladimer Gurgenidze, said that health is an important tool in reducing poverty. Providing his country’s population, especially people who live below the poverty line, with access to social and health protection is among the Government’s top objectives.

One of the Regional Committee’s goals is to increase health systems’ capacities to respond to health emergencies. “Governments made important achievements in this field by signing the Tallinn Charter in June this year. When a crisis happens, the malfunctioning of a health system puts the health of the world in danger. There is no room for complacency – we have a lot of work to do to carry out the plans mapped out in Tallinn,” says Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Health systems are the focus of other items on the Regional Committee’s agenda. Representatives are exploring the driving forces behind better health system performance, the difference good governance can make, and the health sector’s role in encouraging people to adopt healthier behaviour, including abstinence from smoking, weight management, blood pressure control and regular exercise.

The Regional Committee is also taking stock of progress made across the WHO European Region and setting new goals for the years ahead. The Regional Director’s report on the work of the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 2006–2007 showed that many goals had been successfully achieved but much work remained. Presenting the report and describing the Regional Office’s activities in 2008, Dr Danzon cited encouraging trends in such areas as tackling noncommunicable diseases and the provision of health services for vulnerable population groups. The report highlights significant increases in the Regional Office’s presence in countries and in the share of its budget devoted to country work.

For more information, contact:

Ms Liuba Negru
Press and Media Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Scherfigsvej 8
2100 Copenhagen Ø
Tel.: +45 3917 1344; mobile: +45 2045 9274
E-mail: LNE@euro.who.int