Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Coming up in 2023 – World Health Organization (WHO)



74th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe
74th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe
As we look ahead to another busy year in 2023 – WHO’s 75th anniversary year – our goal remains the same – to achieve the best possible level of health and well-being for all people living in the WHO European Region, encompassing 53 countries across Europe and central Asia.
Given the current complex challenges that are placing particular strain on health systems in the Region – a devastating war in Ukraine, a cost-of-living crisis, an ongoing pandemic now in its fourth year, a climate crisis and a fatigued health workforce – we need to adopt a “dual track” approach to health in 2023 and beyond. This means preparing better for health emergencies, while at the same time investing further in universal health coverage, delivering the everyday health services that people need. 
At the mid-point in implementing the European Programme of Work (EPW) 2020–2025, our efforts continue to be guided by the principle of “United Action for Better Health”.  Solidarity and coordinated action with governments and partners is the only way to make progress on our shared ambition to safeguard, promote and advocate for the health of people in Europe and central Asia. 
Here is an overview of upcoming anniversaries, events, campaigns and key publications outlining WHO/Europe’s priorities for 2023:
This year, the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a partnership hosted by WHO/Europe, celebrates 25 years of work supporting evidence-informed health policy-making in the European Region. Throughout the year, several activities and events will shed light on how different Member States continue to learn from each other in key areas including the economics of health and health systems, governance for better public health, effective integrated care, and innovation.
We have the means and knowledge to cure more than 80% of childhood cancers. Despite this, the annual death rate for children diagnosed with cancer ranges from 9% to 57% across countries.
On Childhood Cancer Day we will focus on raising awareness about inequities across the Region regarding childhood cancer. 
A new status report on prison health in the European Region will be launched by WHO/Europe’s Health in Prisons Programme. The report will enable countries to set targets for the performance of their prison health systems, monitor progress over time, and learn from the achievements of other countries, translating these into meaningful improvements in prison health systems. 
A new report “Step up! Tackling the burden of insufficient physical activity in Europe”, published jointly by WHO/Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will explain how increasing physical activity can prevent thousands of premature deaths in the European Union (EU) and save billions of euros in health-care spending annually.
The report, developed with funding from the EU, will be presented at a hybrid event organized in Copenhagen, Denmark.
WHO/Europe is convening a first-of-its-kind Partners Forum in Istanbul, Türkiye, for leading health contributors from across Europe, the Caucasus and central Asia.
Taking advantage of the current momentum around public health, the forum will provide a platform to consider a wide range of expertise and perspectives, to explore genuine opportunities for sustainable health funding across the Region, and ultimately to strengthen partnerships, both new and well-established.
Over the last 3 years, WHO/Europe has developed a global leadership position in arts and health policy development. On 27 February, the Jameel Arts & Health Lab will be launched by WHO/Europe, the Steinhardt School at New York University, Community Jameel and CULTURUNNERS. With a focus on excluded and underserved communities, the lab aims to radically improve health care worldwide through the coordination and synthesis of rigorous academic research into the effectiveness of “arts in health” interventions. This project will mark the first major arts and health initiative in WHO’s history.
The combination of universal declines in well-being and deeper health inequities, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, underscore the need to change the way we think about the relationship between health and the economy. This high-level forum will bring together policy-makers and experts to show how public health policies, public health goods and health systems contribute to economic and social resilience and sustainable development.
Participants from 38 countries will discuss implementation of the European Immunization Agenda 2030 (EIA2030) with specific emphasis on the monitoring, evaluation and accountability framework; addressing immunization inequity at subnational/community level; and devising locally tailored interventions to achieve and sustain high vaccination coverage. They will also discuss and share experiences on poliovirus containment and strengthening environmental surveillance for poliovirus, the digitalization roadmap for immunization information systems, strengthening vaccine safety systems and using a systematic approach to develop evidence-informed recommendations on immunization policies.
In early March, WHO/Europe will launch a new report on the role health systems can play in addressing human trafficking and its impacts on people’s health.
Building on the first tri-regional high-level meeting on health and migration in Türkiye in 2022, which was attended by governments from the WHO African, Eastern Mediterranean and European regions, the second meeting in Egypt aims to facilitate cross-border and interregional implementation of priority actions.
Convened by WHO/Europe to advance health and care workforce priorities laid out in the newly launched regional report “Time to act”, the meeting will bring together various stakeholders in the area including representatives of ministries of health, and technical and academic experts. The aim of the meeting is to ensure health workers across the Region receive the support they need to continue providing care for patients in all health-care settings. 
Health workers play a key part in achieving the best possible level of health for people in the European Region, and their role is particularly crucial when we face new emergencies. Whether it is responding to COVID-19 during the pandemic, caring for casualties and refugees from the war in Ukraine or helping treat patients with mpox (monkeypox), they save lives. During World Health Worker Week, we celebrate health workers’ achievements across the Region and highlight the versatility of their response to emergency situations.
The Forum, which will take place during World Health Worker Week, will focus on protecting and investing in the health and care workforce. It will examine the necessary policy solutions, investments and multisectoral partnerships to address health and care workforce challenges which hinder progress towards universal health coverage and health security. The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies and WHO will launch 3 policy briefs synthesizing the evidence on: lessons from COVID-19 to improve working conditions; improvement of intersectoral links between education, training and health system demands; and smart investment in the health and care workforce.
This year, WHO marks its 75th anniversary, providing an opportunity for the world to remember and celebrate public health achievements over this time, and map out the path for future action. A year-long campaign of events, storytelling and public health advocacy will be launched on World Health Day. These initiatives will seek to bring people and partners together to advance our shared goal of achieving health for all. 
Vaccination against COVID-19 continues to be vital for prevention of severe disease, especially among the most vulnerable, including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions or who are pregnant. At the same time immunization programmes are working to catch up on all routine vaccinations against other diseases missed during the pandemic. European Immunization Week will support this work by reminding health workers and the public of the importance of staying up to date with vaccinations to prevent a resurgence of diseases including diphtheria, measles and polio.
At this special meeting organized by WHO/Europe in Uzbekistan, mental health and primary health care practitioners, experts and people with lived experiences will meet to discuss mental health services in primary health care settings. The meeting will focus on mental health leadership, including the fight against stigma and discrimination, and the use of the WHO QualityRights toolkit.
In May 2023, the First Lady of Croatia, Dr Sanja Musić Milanović and WHO/Europe’s Regional Director, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge are convening a summit to launch a high-level advocacy network of first ladies and gentlemen with the aim of raising the profile of the problem of childhood obesity in the Region.
A report on COVID-19 and childhood obesity will be launched in May in the context of the Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative (COSI). The new report will be part of a series of publications shared by the initiative measuring trends among primary school aged children for over 10 years to analyse determinants of overweight and obesity. 
This year’s ministerial meeting of the Small Countries Initiative marks the 10th anniversary since the establishment of the Initiative. Hosted by Luxembourg, the meeting will see ministers of health from the 11 smallest countries in the European Region coming together to implement the new “Roadmap towards better health in small countries in the WHO European Region”.
Organized by the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) every year since 2019 and supported by WHO/Europe, EUPHW aims to raise awareness about public health and promote collaboration among the public health community across the Region. This year’s theme is “Public health: global issues, local actions”, with daily themes focusing on: mental health, diversity in health, access to care, prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases, and global health emergencies and response. The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies will be the official partner kicking off the Wednesday theme, access to care.
Recognizing the critical role and potential of digital tools in the health sector, WHO/Europe will be launching a report on the status of digital health in the European Region. The report will complement the “Regional digital health action plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030” and provide countries with valuable data and insights as they leverage the power of digital tools to address health system challenges and improve people’s health and well-being.
Every year, on 31 May, World No Tobacco Day is celebrated with a different theme to cover the broad range of measures within the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This year’s theme is “We need food, not tobacco”. The 2023 global campaign aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops.
WHO/Europe will convene its second expert meeting on the role and future of hospitals in the European Region in Baku, Azerbaijan, building on the first meeting held in April 2022. This meeting marks an important political milestone as WHO/Europe urges countries to rethink how hospitals are staffed, resourced and managed, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its fourth year. Crucially, the hospitals initiative seeks to bring hospital and primary health care systems together for better health.
On World Refugee Day, WHO/Europe raises awareness about the health needs of refugees across the Region and calls for universal access to services for all. In the context of the Ukraine war, attending to immediate needs as well as helping countries build health systems that are sensitive to the reality of life for refugees, such as cultural and linguistic barriers, is ever more salient.
Taking place in Budapest, Hungary, this Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health will be the seventh in a series started in 1989 under the framework of the European Environment and Health Process. It will define the future environment and health priorities and commitments for the European Region, with a focus on addressing the health dimensions of the triple environmental crisis brought about by climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution, while taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and opportunities for a healthy recovery on the path towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The toolkit, to be launched online, offers practical information for ministries of health and ministries of education across the Region on effective policies to reduce nicotine and tobacco consumption in school environments and good practices to better understand the drivers of adoption. 
Bringing together national behavioural and cultural insights (BCI) focal points, Member State delegates, interdisciplinary experts in BCI, and partners, this meeting will provide an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive stocktake of progress in integrating BCI into public health in the Region. It will facilitate discussions on implementing the regional action framework on BCI that was adopted in September 2022, and provide a forum to share experiences, case studies and good practices. 
Marked annually since 2019, the day promotes global understanding of patient safety and concrete actions to reduce patient harm in health-care settings. This year, the theme is “patient safety and family engagement”.
The objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health in people’s everyday life and in emergency situations alike. Through the work of its pioneering Pan-European Mental Health Coalition, WHO/Europe will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what needs to be done to support people’s mental health across the Region. The day will also be an opportunity to reflect on the millions of people affected by post COVID-19 condition (long COVID), a syndrome with both physical and mental impacts, as yet little understood.
Marking 45 years since the historic Alma-Ata Declaration and 5 years since the Astana Declaration, this special high-level conference will be co-hosted by WHO/Europe and the Government of Kazakhstan. Adopted in 1978 by all WHO Member States, the Alma-Ata Declaration made primary health care the official health policy of all member states and recognized it as the bedrock of public health. A regional high-level meeting with a global flavour, this celebratory conference will see ministers and experts meet to discuss key regional and global political trends and challenges in primary health care.
The European Region has been free from endemic circulation of wild poliovirus for 20 years; however, detections of vaccine-derived poliovirus in the Region in 2022 remind us that we cannot afford to be complacent. World Polio Day is an opportunity to highlight the importance of sustaining high vaccination coverage until every form of the virus has been eradicated.
This year’s Regional Committee session, RC73, hosted by the Government of Kazakhstan, will take place in Astana in October, a month later than usual. Decision-makers and partners from the Region’s 53 Member States will meet for a 3-day programme of political, technical and governance discussions.
Provisional agenda topics include a European roadmap to address antimicrobial resistance; strengthening the health workforce with a focus on primary health care; introducing a European strategy on health emergency preparedness – Preparedness 2.0; endorsing a European action plan on refugee and migrant health; and the launch of WHO/Europe’s Youth4Health network, following the commitments of the first Youth4Health forum in 2022. 
In addition, a pre-event on 23 October is being organized to celebrate the 75th anniversary of WHO, the 45th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration, and the 5th anniversary of the Astana Declaration. Briefings and side events are planned for 27 October. 
Scheduled to be launched on the side-lines of RC73 in Astana, Kazakhstan, the new roadmap marks a milestone in WHO/Europe’s efforts to support the nursing and midwifery professions in the region. As governments continue rebuilding their health systems and supporting their health workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that nurses and midwives are included will be essential. Nurses and midwives account for the largest single group of health professionals and are responsible for 90% of contacts between patients and health-care workers.
The WHO European Healthy Cities Network is a political, crosscutting and intersectoral initiative and movement that directly collaborates with cities to improve health, well-being and equitable and sustainable development in cities across the Region. 
The annual meeting attracts politicians and key decision-makers from within cities, as well as technical experts to learn from the work of healthy cities across the European Region and beyond.
The overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture, as well as poor sanitation and hygiene have driven the development of drug-resistant infections, one of the biggest health crises of our time. The week’s slogan “Antimicrobials: handle with care”, highlights that antimicrobial medicines, such as antibiotics, are a precious resource and should be used prudently to avoid the further emergence and spread of such hard-to-treat infections.
Following the success of the first-ever European Public Health Leadership Course, launched with the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS) last year, WHO/Europe is organizing the second edition of the course, designed to support and strengthen the capacity of future leaders in public health. While last year’s participation was by nomination only, this next edition will be open to all public health professionals who wish to apply.
Every year, WHO marks Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day to review progress and identify gaps in ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can access the health care they need, close to where they live and without falling into financial hardship. With COVID-19 and a range of other crises exacerbating health inequities around the world, WHO continues to mark UHC Day by highlighting the need to leave no one behind.
On International Migrants Day, WHO/Europe calls on decision-makers and everyone to include migrants in efforts to provide universal health coverage for all, highlighting the importance of accessible and inclusive health services.
Scheduled to be launched in December, this report will provide an overview of the quality of care and patient safety in the European Region, and guide Member States’ efforts towards improving them.


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