Report card for health in Europe: significant progress made, more work needed

Copenhagen and Çeşme Izmir, 16 September 2013

The health of people living in the WHO European Region today is better than ever before. Significant advances have been made recently in specific health areas. Yet despite being a Region rich in knowledge and innovation, and with a long history of public health, not every one of the 900 million people in the Region enjoys the highest possible level of health, and health inequalities threaten further progress.

Opening WHO’s annual meeting for the 53 countries of the European Region, Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, outlined many advances and challenges, and how Health 2020, the European policy framework for health and well-being, can help to redress inequalities and extend health benefits throughout European societies.

“Implementing Health 2020 demonstrates the commitment of all our Member States to better health for our European populations and for generations to come. It shows how action on the whole spectrum of health determinants leads to wider benefits for society, including social, community and economic benefits. I am absolutely determined that the WHO Regional Office for Europe will support all its Member States to help them implement Health 2020 in the light of country circumstances and needs, and will really make a difference,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab.

Recent health successes and ongoing challenges

Since 1990 the maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 54%, and the European Region has the lowest maternal mortality in the world. Nevertheless, women’s risk of dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth differs by a factor of more than 40 across the Region, depending on where they live and receive health care. Supporting countries in decreasing this inequity is among the Regional Office’s priorities, and with strong commitment from ministries of health improvements in the quality of maternal care based on lessons learnt are being observed.

Adult per capita alcohol consumption has fallen significantly in the Region over the past 20 years but, despite this overall decline, most marked in southern Europe, there is an upward trend in the east. The European action plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol provides a framework for effective policy options. So far, 37 countries have a national or subnational policy on alcohol and 10 more are in the process of developing a national policy.

Thanks to the roll-out of a revolutionary molecular diagnostic test, it is now estimated that over half of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases are being detected, and treatment enrolment increased to 96% in 2012. Treatment success rates vary according to the setting, however, ranging from 18% to 80%. The Regional Office for Europe is working with Member States and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to address these gaps.

Member States developed 10 policy lessons to address the health impact of the economic crisis, with the support of the Regional Office. One key lesson is that policy responses must consider longer-term health challenges. Evidence shows that the incidence of infectious diseases, such as HIV infection, can increase sharply if preventive programmes (such as needle exchange) and early treatment services are scaled back as a result of budget cuts.

The ambitious agenda at this year’s sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe is the mid-point of a long-term five-year vision for better health in Europe, initiated by Zsuzsanna Jakab in 2010.

Further information is available on the WHO Regional Office web site on the report of the WHO Regional Director on the work of the Office, on the sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee and on how to follow the session on Twitter.

For further information, contact:

Liuba Negru
Media Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 45 33 67 89, +45 20 45 92 74 (mobile)