Eight small countries in Europe join forces to improve health

Copenhagen and San Marino, 3 July 2014

Eight European countries with populations of under 1 million have committed themselves to cooperating on a new project to improve their citizens’ health and well-being, and implement the European policy framework, Health 2020. Health ministers and other high-level officials from the countries participating in the project – Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino – will meet for the first time in San Marino on 3–4 July 2014, to put their plans into action.

“WHO’s small countries project is visionary in harnessing our understanding of the advantages of small-state governance, in adapting 21st-century solutions for better population health that are based on the strong cooperation of all government sectors. Beyond sharing experience and building capacity among its members, the project will be a catalyst for innovative policy developments in larger countries,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “The values and principles of Health 2020 – cutting health inequities and putting people at the centre of health systems – apply to all, and WHO is committed to supporting every country, large and small, in translating them into practice.”

Small countries have unique needs, challenges and assets in adapting their policies to the increasingly complex, turbulent global environment. Although perhaps more exposed to economic changes, they are also better equipped to set and implement policy quickly, work closely with communities, and achieve social and political cohesion, than their larger neighbours.

The meeting in San Marino – taking place on 3–4 July 2014, hosted by the Republic of San Marino, and organized by the WHO Regional Office for Europe – will launch the project. Its aim is to foster cooperation and exchange among participating countries, and to ensure that their national health strategies and plans are aligned with Health 2020.

About the WHO small countries project

Agreed in 2012 and financed through a grant from San Marino, WHO established the small countries project so that countries in the WHO European Region with a population of less than 1 million people (Andorra, Cyprus, Iceland, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino) can share their knowledge on implementing Health 2020. This will include methods, common challenges and successful policies and practices. A series of capacity-building events will be organized for participating countries, on topics such as multisectoral collaboration, early childhood development and the link between health, education and social policy, the inclusion of health in all policies and the social determinants of health.

What is Health 2020?

All 53 countries in the WHO European Region adopted the health policy framework, Health 2020, at the 2012 session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. Health 2020 provides evidence-based policy recommendations to support participation and action across governments and societies, to improving health and well-being for all. It has four policy priorities:

  • investing in health through a life-course approach and empowering people;
  • tackling Europe’s major health challenges, including noncommunicable and communicable diseases;
  • strengthening people-centred health systems, and emergency preparedness, surveillance and response; and
  • creating resilient communities and supportive environments.

The framework recognizes the differences between and within countries in the Region, and can thus be adapted to their different circumstances. For example, countries have different starting points in aligning their health policies and strategies with Health 2020.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe website offers further information on Health 2020.

For further information, contact:

Sara Barragán Montes
WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development
Division for Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Castello 3252/3252
I-30122 Venice, Italy
Tel.: +39 041 279 3875,
Email: sbm@ihd.euro.who.int  

Francesco Zambon
Policy Development Officer
WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development
Division for Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being
WHO Regional Office for Europe
Castello 3252/3252
I-30122 Venice, Italy
Tel.:+39 041 279 3847
Email: zaf@ihd.euro.who.int