WHO governing body for the European Region convenes with eight strategic proposals on the agenda

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Liuba Negru
External Relations Officer
WHO Regional Office for Europe
UN City, Marmorvej 51
2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
Tel.: +45 45 33 67 89
Mobile: +45 20 45 92 74
Email: negrul@ who.int

08 September 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark

At the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, to be held in Copenhagen from 12 to 15 September, representatives from the 53 countries in the WHO European Region will debate a set of innovative action plans that affect public health. The plans call for accelerated action and stronger political commitment on refugee and migrant health, women’s health, sexual and reproductive health, noncommunicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, integrated health services and the use of data in public health.

Also high on the agenda will be the new WHO Health Emergencies Programme and its implementation in the WHO Regional Office for Europe, as well as the ongoing work on Health 2020, the regional policy framework on health and well-being, and its links to the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its global goals.

Some 300 delegates from Member States in the Region, including a large number of health ministers, will attend the Committee. Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Denmark and WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan will address the Committee on Monday 12 September and Wednesday 14 September, respectively.

Strategies and action plans on the agenda

On every proposal before the Committee, the WHO Regional Office for Europe has conducted wide consultations with technical experts, Member States and partner organizations.

  • The delegates are expected to agree on a common strategy and action plan on refugee and migrant health as part of Region’s intensified efforts to prevent disease and deaths among people on the move. If adopted, it will be the first document of its kind created by WHO. The document calls for stronger migrant-sensitive health systems to meet the needs of over 75 million international migrants who are living in the European Region today.
  • The Committee will also discuss the priority actions that must be taken in the next 10 years to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – the biggest killers across the entire WHO European Region, where they cause 86% of deaths and 77% of the burden of disease. The NCD action plan calls on Member States to combat these diseases head on, with a whole-of-government approach that goes beyond the health sector and involves many areas that influence people’s health and well-being. The plan proposes the use of fiscal and marketing policies to promote healthy consumption; reformulation of food products so that trans and saturated fats are replaced with unsaturated fats; reduction of salt and sugar consumption; promotion of physical activity; and prevention of sedentary behaviour.
  • The new action plan on HIV/AIDS calls for an urgent and accelerated “treat all” approach to end the AIDS epidemic in the WHO European Region by 2030. Almost one million people are now on antiretroviral therapy and good progress has been made towards eliminating the mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Europe. The Region remains at a critical point with regard to HIV, however. While new infections are decreasing globally, new diagnoses have increased by 76% in the Region since 2005, more than doubling in countries in eastern Europe and central Asia. Only an estimated 21% of all people living with HIV were receiving treatment in 2015 in the eastern part of the European Region.
  • If adopted, the first ever regional action plan on viral hepatitis will address viral hepatitis as a public health threat and pave the way towards its elimination from the European Region by 2030. An estimated 13 million people in the Region are living with chronic hepatitis B infection and about 15 million with chronic hepatitis C infection. Two thirds of those infected are in countries in eastern Europe and central Asia. Every day in the Region over 450 people still die of liver cirrhosis or cancer, although prevention tools and life-saving treatment are available.
  • The strategy on women’s health and well-being aims at reducing health inequities for women and girls. During the past decade life expectancy for women remained higher than for men in all 53 Member States in the Region. Nevertheless, this may be offset by fewer years lived without disability or activity restriction. Women see themselves as less healthy than men, report more illness and more frequently forego care for financial reasons. Equal access to health services has not been achieved for women in rural areas, from ethnic minority groups, who are migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers or who are in detention. The strategy places strong emphasis on country leadership as a condition of its successful implementation.
  • The sexual and reproductive health action plan focuses on both physical and mental aspects to improve health outcomes. As populations live longer and migration increases, many countries face new challenges that need to be addressed, including female genital mutilation, sexual health of the elderly and sexual health of people with disabilities, among others. The plan provides strategic directions for decision-makers in tackling these public health challenges.
  • In many countries health care, public health and social services operate in a fragmented way. The framework for action on integrated health services delivery aims to improve health by transforming health service delivery. It applies systems thinking to move towards coordinated provision of health and social services, where health care fits the needs of the people rather than the other way around. Integrating health delivery services to provide coordinated care that is centred on people, rather than on diseases, can improve the quality of health services and ensure that they are equitable. This is essential to achieve universal health coverage, one of the targets of the 2030 global goals.
  • The action plan to strengthen the use of evidence, information and research for policy-making in the WHO European Region represents Member States’ commitment to putting evidence first in the policy-making process. The plan is a practical framework for strengthening health information systems, creating research systems that support public health institutions in setting priorities. It is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that policy is based on evidence, so that precious resources are allocated where they are needed most.

Speaking about the Regional Committee agenda, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe said: “We have put these strategies and action plans forward because we believe that, at the regional and national levels, they are critically important to all our Member States. These strategic plans are interconnected with the 2030 global goals and the regional Health 2020 policy framework, and will contribute to their implementation. By having clear plans and shared priorities, the Region can work effectively towards achieving better health for all.”

The full programme and other working documents of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe are available on the WHO Regional Office for Europe website.

The 66th session of the Committee also includes a series of technical briefings and ministerial roundtable discussions on:

  • eliminating communicable diseases in the European Region;
  • health promotion throughout the life-course;
  • aligning the monitoring framework for Health 2020 in the European Region with the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • access to new high-price medicines: challenges and opportunities;
  • the role of laboratories in International Health Regulations (IHR) core capacities and the WHO Better Labs for Beter Health initiative;
  • WHO activities in Member States in the European Region.

Journalists can follow Regional Committee proceedings in the following ways: