WHO/Europe showcases work from across the Region at 75th World Health Assembly

WHO/Europe showcases work from across the Region at 75th World Health Assembly

A landmark agreement on a new, sustainable financing model, as well as the re-election of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as WHO Director-General, was just 2 of the highlights at this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA).

Bringing together delegates in a hybrid format, the annual meeting also offered the chance to learn more about WHO’s work in countries and across WHO’s regions, working to strengthen health for all.

Sustainable financing

This year’s WHA reached a landmark decision on sustainable financing, which seeks to increase assessed contributions to 50% of WHO’s core budget by 2030. Currently, assessed contributions make up only 16% of WHO’s approved program budget.

Assessed contributions are raised from Member States of WHO and allow for more predictable and flexible funding, which isn’t necessarily earmarked by donors for specific areas of health. This change would go hand in hand with a further strengthening of WHO’s financial governance and transparency with Member States.

Re-election of Director-General

On 24 May, Dr Tedros was re-elected as WHO Director-General. Having first been elected in 2017, the Director-General ran unopposed as the only nominee for the position and will take up his new mandate on 16 August 2022.

Dr Tedros obtained wide support for his 5 priorities for the next 5 years: addressing the root causes of ill-health; redirecting health services to primary care; strengthening the global architecture for preparedness, response and resilience; harnessing science, research, innovation, data and digital technologies; and building a stronger, empowered and sustainable WHO.

Speaking to the WHA, Dr Tedros said: “I am humbled by the opportunity provided by Member States to serve a second term as WHO Director-General. This honor, though, comes with great responsibility and I am committed to working with all countries, my colleagues around the world, and our valued partners, to ensure WHO delivers on its mission to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable” .

Well-resourced health systems

Health financing was also on the agenda during this year’s WHA – with Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, speaking at a strategic roundtable, highlighting health as a core development objective. This was one of the key points in the final report of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development – ​​convened by Dr Kluge under the leadership of Professor Mario Monti to learn from the outbreak of COVID-19 and help build more resilient health system.

Noncommunicable diseases and obesity

Dr Kluge participated in a WHA side-event entitled “Tipping the scales: global actions to address obesity”, which was hosted by the First Lady of Croatia, HE Professor Dr Sanja Musić Milanović. The aim of the meeting was to highlight that no country in the WHO European Region is on track to stop the rise in obesity, and to present the global Acceleration Plan. This plan identifies priority actions that countries and WHO can undertake to tackle the rise in obesity – including engaging partners, encouraging global mobilization and monitoring progress. The event followed the launch of a report earlier this year which highlighted that obesity could become the biggest cause of cancer by 2030.

During the side-event, a new WHO/Europe policy brief was launched entitled “Obesity in the WHO European Region”. This policy brief summarizes the WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022. It presents the latest data on obesity across the life course in the European Region and a suite of policies and population-level approaches that Member States can consider for implementation in order to prevent and manage obesity.

Refugee and migrant health in action

The health of refugees and migrants has been a major focus for WHO/Europe – as well as other WHO regions – in recent years. Following a high-level meeting in March, 5 priority actions were identified to improve the health of refugees and migrants:

  • Ensure that migrants and refugees have universal health coverage
  • implement inclusive health emergency policies
  • promote social inclusion and reduce inequalities between people
  • strengthen migration health governance and data gathering
  • support new partnerships and innovative ways of working.

Speaking alongside fellow regional directors from the WHO African and WHO Eastern Mediterranean regions during a side-event at the WHA, Dr Kluge, said: “Good health and well-being should be a reality for all of us, no matter where you come from and what status you have. To make this happen, it is important to work across regions and to include refugee and migrant perspectives.

Behavioral and cultural insights

Behavioral and cultural insights are central to the European Program of Work, 2020–2025 “United Action for Better Health”. By better understanding the barriers to and drivers of good health, health authorities can ensure more people benefit from better health and well-being.

Overcoming barriers to health includes addressing concerns that populations may have around specific health interventions or understanding the reality of people’s lives – such as bureaucracy or limited public services – which make accessing health care difficult.

During a side-event at the WHA on releasing the potential of behavioral insights in health, Robb Butler – Executive Director at WHO/Europe – spoke of the need to invest in this area of ​​expertise to benefit people’s health and well-being: “By Integrating behavioral insights into health policy and service planning, we can explore the barriers and drivers people experience and use this insight to make services more accessible, convenient, acceptable and equitable. We can use it to help health workers do their jobs even better. We can even support people to adopt more healthy lifestyles.”

Bilateral meetings with Member States and partners

As in previous years, the WHA offered opportunities to meet mutually with health representatives across the Region. Covering a range of health areas – including mental health, primary health care, routine vaccination and working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic – Dr Kluge spokes with delegates from a number of different countries.

One such meeting focused on WHO/Europe’s work with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on a roadmap for health and well-being – with 2022 marking 30 years of collaboration with countries in central Asia.

During another bilateral meeting, the Oslo Medicines Initiative was on the agenda – bringing together ministers, patients, physicians and nursing associations to make novel, innovative medicines which may have a high price-tag more accessible.