Health ministers and senior official from the 53 countries in the WHO European Region gathered in Malta to vote on an ambitious long-term WHO European policy for health and well-being, Health 2020.
Health 2020, the new European policy framework, aims to maximize opportunities for promoting population health and reducing health inequities. It recommends that European countries address population health through whole-of- society and whole-of-government approaches. Health 2020 emphasizes the need to improve overall governance for health through a clear focus on the social determinants of health.
“The Health 2020 policy is an innovative roadmap. It sets out our new vision and forms the basis of the strategic health priorities for our Region in the years ahead,” said Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Health 2020 provides a unique Region-wide platform for sharing expertise and experience, so that, at a time of economic downturn, we leverage our individual strengths and multiply our health gains.”
Life expectancy has continuously increased in the Region: five years were gained over the last two decades and this trend is likely to continue. Inequities in health have also increased over this period, however, and they are now a key concern for European health policy-makers. The aim of the new European health policy is to turn the tide by addressing all the key factors simultaneously, including lifestyles, universal access to health care of appropriate quality and the root causes of ill health, the social determinants.
Health 2020 was developed in wide consultation with technical experts, Member States, civil-society and partner organizations, and the general public. In addition, the new framework policy was informed by several concurrent studies, including a European review of the social determinants of health and the health divide, led by Sir Michael Marmot, of University College London, United Kingdom; a study on governance for health in the 21st century, led by Professor Ilona Kickbusch, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland and an OECD-led study on the economic case for public health action. The findings of these studies were presented to the Regional Committee.